Tag Archives: Atlanta soul music

Lalah Hathaway album release show mesmerizes Atlanta

1 Nov

Like church when you come for the early service, but the music and message is so good you end up staying for the 11 o’clock, Lalah Hathaway took everyone there on Friday.

The show coincided with the release of her live album. After dreaming of it for more than 25 years, Hathaway said she considers Lalah Hathaway Live a companion to her father’s 1972 release of Donny Hathaway Live.

Just like her voice and her message, it’s every bit in the family.

Thank goodness — or rather thanks to Craig Garrett and Next Level Events — we’re now part of that family, having witnessed Hathaway’s delight in celebrating the album’s release.

For more photos from the Lalah Hathaway Atlanta show, check out Ray Cornelius' site at raycornelius.com.

For more photos from the Lalah Hathaway Atlanta show, check out Ray Cornelius’ site at raycornelius.com.

We must have made an impression. Atlanta may be the location for her next live album because, she said, “Y’all aren’t playing.”

When it comes to her, clearly not. Two sold-out shows at the not-so-small Center Stage prove it.

A video of “Little Ghetto Boy,” a song first made famous by her father, kicked off the show and her opening notes.

Hashtags #becomeaman and #getbetter made statements almost as strong as the “Racism Sucks” T-shirt Hathaway wore, courtesy of a meet-and-greet turned shopping trip earlier in the week at Darryl Harris’ Moods Music.

It didn’t take the crowd long to settle in and let Lalah do her thing, with “You Were Meant for Me” up next, and her strong supporting cast of background vocalists in tow for “Just Breathe.”

Hathaway shined on the classic “Summertime” with fun runs throughout that she made sound easy. How easy, you ask? Let Lalah whistle the song and show you.

Taking a step away from the mic, and getting a feel for the tune, she continued with “I’m Coming Back,” putting special emphasis on the line “It was a fool’s mistake to run and hide.”

Yes, Lalah, it is a good song — a simple answer for the question she asked the crowd.

As she did throughout the show, Hathaway broke from song and shared a sistergirl sense of humor, this time asking for a show of hands for anyone who remembered buying cassette tapes. “Not off eBay, but what you used to play in your Momma’s Lincoln.”

Oh, how I can relate — my stepdad had a baby blue Continental.

That ability to relate, whether through lyrics, banter with the crowd, or a pure appreciation for her talent, is what made this show so mesmerizing.

“Baby Don’t Cry” was the first more uptempo number of the night, but Hathaway didn’t linger there.

No, it was time to serenade Kirsten, a pledge backer from the new album’s fundraising efforts. The song, “Mirror,” tells listeners that “sometimes you have to make the mirror your best friend … love yourself when no one else can.” Another message made that much more personal.

Speaking of personal, you know when you’re in the car, and one of your favorite songs comes on, and you want to be the only one singing it, because it’s your song … but then other people in the car join in?

Those kinds of mixed feelings approached when Hathaway launched into “Angel” by Anita Baker. That song was made for her to cover. For her to sing.

But the crowd couldn’t contain itself. Voices lifted for the next set of true R&B songs, including “Good Love,” “Caught Up in the Rapture,” “Just Because,” and “No One in the World.”

The trip through soul music worth singing continued with Patrice Rushen, the Whispers, and Zapp — because, you know, as Hathaway said, she “could sing in the same register when I was age 12.”

Rufus and Chaka Khan’s “Sweet Thing” followed, with that family barbecue favorite “Before I Let Go” by Frankie Beverly and Maze giving Hathaway the room to boogie like she really was at a family barbecue.

She stayed for another helping, this time served up by Earth Wind and Fire and “Would You Mind.”

The Gap Band’s “Yearning for Your Love” and all its talk of running in and out ran along beautifully as Hathaway made melodic stylings of the phrase “my heart is yearning.”

By that time, the crowd was also yearning as Hathaway teased out “There was a time …,” the first few words of “Forever, For Always, For Love.” Her reprise of the song made everyone remember Luther Vandross in the best possible way. It was made complete with guitar from Isaiah Sharkey that licked the song clean and smooth, putting the rhythm in blues that he probably got honest hailing from Chicago.

A lovely, spare but fulfilling version of “One Day I’ll Fly Away” put guitar in the place of the late Joe Sample’s piano on the original version. “When will love be through with me?” One only knows but I’m glad Hathaway isn’t through with us yet.

She spoke in tongues to us all night, scatting through the song up until the moment when she did IT. The unmistakable three-notes-in-one miracle made widely known as part of her Grammy-winning update of “It’s Something” with Snarky Puppy. This time she did it for her Aunt Jackie, with her mom and lots of family in the audience in full support.

Sometimes you find family where you least expect it. When I was in Kroger yesterday, I asked a fellow shopper, “How are you?”

“Blessed and obedient,” he replied.

If you attended services on Friday, you were blessed. Now, do like the preacher woman Hathaway says, and go buy the album if you haven’t already. You’ll have the obedient part covered.

Tia Fuller offers ‘A Fuller Sound’ for CAU-Morehouse-Spelman homecoming

22 Oct Tia Fuller-saxophonist-A Fuller Sound
Tia Fuller-saxophonist-A Fuller Sound

Photo courtesy Keith Major

After three well-received jazz albums, saxophonist Tia Fuller has landed on stages with Beyonce, Dianne Reeves, Erykah Badu and Janelle Monae.

Tonight, her straight-ahead jazz chops bring Fuller to Atlanta for “A Fuller Sound,” kicking off the Clark Atlanta-Morehouse-Spelman homecoming festivities at 595 North, alongside WERC Crew’s Xavier BLK working the turntables.

As a magna cum laude Spelman graduate, playing for homecoming is a fitting enterprise.

Keep reading for Fuller’s aim when she performs, why Atlanta serves as fertile ground for artists, and what she learned from Bey.

What do you hope your audience walk away with after your performance?  

“I always hope that my audience walks away feeling uplifted and inspired after my performances. I want them to feel empowered, self-assured and confident that they can do the unimaginable, that they can pursue their wildest dreams and inspire others to do the same. I also want them to feel connected to the music of the ’90s, as my sound is all-encompassing and nostalgic. It takes you there and back.”

Tia Fuller-595 North-A Fuller Sound

Any other plans for “A Fuller Sound”?

“I hope to take ‘A Fuller Sound’ around the country and maybe even around the world, from colleges and universities to jazz festivals and performing arts centers. There are creative people that could use ‘A Fuller Sound’ for inspiration.”

 
What brings you back to ATL to perform? 

“My hometown is Aurora, Colo., and Atlanta is my second home. I have a lot of ties to the city. I have great friends in town. Atlanta is also the fertile ground that serves as a strong foundation for me spiritually and musically.

“During my time at Spelman, I practiced on the saxophone eight hours a day and completed a spiritual rites of passage, which allowed me to exercise and expound my personal relationship with God. So many of my spiritual brothers and sisters have exceeded their goals here, and I’m happy and amazed to have witnessed that.

“I appreciate sowing into Atlanta’s fertile ground, a place where many plant their seeds of life, fertilize them and watch them grow.”

You have worked alongside notable artists and musicians over the years. What have you learned from those experiences?

“I am incredibly fortunate to have worked with some of the biggest, baddest musicians of our time. As you can imagine, I’ve learned a lot and have grown professionally over the years. A lesson that’s near and dear to me comes from Beyonce, who taught me to never accept ‘no’ for an answer. There’s always a ‘yes.’ You just have to work for it. She also taught me to maintain a crystallized vision when multitasking as band leader, businesswoman and musician.”


What differentiates the music scene in ATL from the rest of the world?   

“Atlanta is a city with blended sounds. People have migrated here from all over the world. There are opportunities to become exposed to multiple genres of music and work with other talented performers. It’s what makes the city so unique. Atlanta is influential in that it allows artists to step outside of their comfort zone and try something new. You just have to be open to it. And that’s what ‘A Fuller Sound’ is all about.”

— Big thanks to Aikeem Hunter for his contribution to this article.

Recap: Jose James sings Billie Holiday at Variety Playhouse

11 Apr
Jose James at Variety Playhouse April 2015

Photo by Tiffany Powell

Growing up listening to Billie Holiday can have quite an impact on a man. Nearly 35 years after first hearing her unmistakeable voice, and in the year that would have seen Holiday’s 100th birthday, Jose James brought a few of her classics to the Variety Playhouse on Saturday, April 4.

The strength of the show was James’ ability to channel and connect with Holiday without being encumbered by the responsibility of trying to sound just like her. That, and his tendency to incorporate elements of his more present-day techniques to brighten — and familiarize — the experience.

As a set up for James’ new album, Yesterday I Had the Blues: The Music of Billie Holiday, the performance likely secured his fandom among frequent followers. A little less sure is its ability to convert those more interested in Lady Day than her contemporaries.

And that’s perfectly OK. As James’ ode to the unequivocal jazz vocalist, it’s necessarily personal, and at the start, unpredictable.

While the mixed crowd of jazz devotees, newbies, young, old and various races likely signed up to see James, they were treated to a strong opening set by Detroit drummer Brandon Williams. Of the guest vocalists, the strongest by far was Anesha Birchett, who’s featured on Williams’ new album, XII. She had just enough depth in her vocals to make them soulful, but her skillful, varied stylings made it all the way jazz.

As entertaining as Williams and the crew were, I found myself impatient for James. Before long, host Jamal Ahmad of the Dangerfeel Newbies was proclaiming the honor of breaking James on his WCLK-FM show, “The S.O.U.L. of Jazz,” seven years ago.

Out steps James, all cool, in a soft brown leather jacket, a darker hat, and even darker shades.

The first song on the album was also the first of the set: “Morning Heartache.” He drew every bit of sorrowful resignation on the “can’t shake you no how” phrasing, an indication of things to come. It was all ears on the beautifully ribboned keys solo by Leo Genovese, a contrast to James’ repeated “morning” riff, a la a record scratch from your favorite turntabilist.

“I’ve been looking forward to this night for a long time,” James said after the song. “I promised I would come back … and I’m back.”

He mentioned how both Holiday and Frank Sinatra would have celebrated their centennial in 2015, and with “Body and Soul” next, he said with a smile, “We had a Sinatra ending on that one.”

A tune Holiday wrote, “Fine and Mellow,” followed, with a fine bass solo by Solomon Dorsey, and more “do, do, do” riffing by James that went on a tad too long.

“Tenderly,” James’ “favorite standard of all time,” came next, and behind it, “Lover Man,” with elements of Mingus and Al Green. Like the best hip-hop samples, it worked seamlessly.

“They talk about jazz like it’s real academic and safe. I’m pretty sure Miles Davis did more drugs than any hip-hop artist,” he said, to chuckles and applause from the crowd, before referencing “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone,” a standard that Holiday recorded. “If that’s not hip-hop, I don’t know what is,” he said.

Moments later, James fans are treated to a familiar track from his 2013 No Beginning, No End album, “Come to My Door,” segueing into the Al Green classic “Simply Beautiful” and its “I’d expect a whole lot of love out of you” challenge. From there, he and the band smooth into a first-fime-for-them cover of D’Angelo’s “One Mo’ Gin,” and then “Red Clay” by Jack Wilson — familiar to ATCQ fans via “Sucka Nigga.”

James’ hip-hop influence becomes tactile with a freestyle, telling listeners that he’ll never sell his soul to the devil and is on another level.

He anticipates the crowd’s question — “How in the world are we going to get back to Billie Holiday?” — and answers with one of her definitive songs, “God Bless the Child.”

Jose James Variety Playhouse April 2015 Strange Fruit encore

For the encore, James returns to the stage alone and without his jacket, signaling the stripped down sounds to come. Using single tracks of his voice and handclaps, looped and layered against the backdrop of his acoustic guitar and perfect spaces of silence, “Strange Fruit” becomes the haunting, heart-wrenching symphony of cotton fields.

In that moment, James’ impact is a worthy addition to Holiday’s legacy. Yesterday we may have had the blues, but by James’ musical might, and by her spirit, it’s a new day.

ChanteSez … Listen to a titillating Mo Audio today!

16 Apr

Madam CJ

What’s on tap for Mo Audio this week? If listening to the powerfully sexy Madam CJ talk about how she wants to titillate you at her Le Courtesan Et Coquettes Noirs cabaret show on May 19 weren’t enough, trumpeter and all-around musician Dashill Smith gives the rundown on Music in the Park on May 20.

Then, of course, there are the hijinks of Slo Mo founders Carlton Hargro and DJ Larmarrous. I just get to enjoy the fun alongside my co-hosts — and I know you will, too!

Big shouts to Aalyah Duncan of A-List Events Marketing for getting Smith onto the show on such short notice. And for the always lovely Teya for gracing us with her presence while supporting Ms. Madam.

Tune in on ABLRadio.com today at 10 a.m., and again at 6 p.m.

Joi fuses Atlanta music genres at Instru Mental pop-up show

11 Sep
Photo by Carlos Bell

Photo by Carlos Bell

“It’s so time for Atlanta to get into the groove of a cross-section” of music, says soul-rock powerhouse Joi. She would know — she’s pretty much the embodiment of it. And if seeing her perform live for free wasn’t enough, Joi is the magnet drawing artists from across the Atlanta music scene to jam with her tonight at the Music Room.

Instru Mental is a pop-up music show that brings together diverse musicians. The inaugural event features Grammy Award-nominated soul singer Anthony David, Music in the Park founder and Grammy-winning saxophonist Kebbi Williams, rock-leaning guitarist Ricky Fontaine, wicked soul performer Rahbi Raw, all-female rock trio KrystalMeth featuring Thunda Snatcha, eclectic and always dapper MC Jack Preston of the Dojo Collective, house vocalist Miranda Nicole, Richelle AKA Cornbread and other guests — with Joi as the centerpiece of the jam.

“It’s a celebration of various cross-sections of Atlanta’s art collective,” she says.

Joi says she hopes the artists will take a cue from her February performance in Atlanta and do a live remix of their own songs. Instead of a full band, she and her cohorts will be backed by Thunda Snatcha and DJs Princess Cut, Durrty Martinez and Xavier Black.

Maurice Garland will host, kicking things off with a brief Q&A with Joi.

Joi says she’ll likely be heading straight from the airport — she left Atlanta for Los Angeles about two years ago — to the Music Room, site unseen.

She wanted to leverage her ability to pull together artists of all kinds while in town for a hosting gig at ONE Music Fest. Her aim is to connect and build a supportive atmosphere for a wide range of artists. Culture creator and longtime retailer Chilly O was happy to help — landing the Edgewood Avenue venue in just a day or so after Joi pitched the idea.

This is a don’t-miss show that stands to be a template for future events, provided the audience demand is there. Joi is positive it will be. The response so far has been “overwhelmingly beautiful,” she says. Again, she would know. She’s pretty much the embodiment of it.

WCLK-FM changes format, replaces ‘S.O.U.L.’ with smooth jazz in ‘survival’ move

28 Aug

OTL-Jamal Ahmad

WCLK-FM (91.9) adjusted the formatting of just about all of its shows starting Monday, Aug. 26, in an effort to save the station, according to assistant general manager Tammy Nobles. The most painful of these adjustments is to Jamal Ahmad’s “S.O.U.L. of Jazz” show. It seems the soul has been sucked out of the 2-6 p.m. weekday time slot and replaced with smooth jazz.

Ahmad has consistently offered quality soul music to WCLK listeners and beyond. He’s known for playing rare grooves — you probably know the hip-hop track featuring a sample from one of these gems — and breaking new music from local and international artists.

His show provided a welcome reprieve from the nationally syndicated talk fests occasionally interrupted by your uncle’s favorite song from back in the day, or your little niece’s latest R&B infatuation.

Ahmad was voted Best Drive Time DJ by Creative Loafing for a couple of years, and his show on WCLK was one of the legs upon which the table of Atlanta’s music scene has been built — the others being our venues, retail outlets such as Moods Music, and the people (both artists and patrons).

Nobles acknowledged Ahmad’s strong following, but insisted that the Arbitron ratings for his show — and the overall decrease in station listenership — justified a change. She said that focus groups were conducted, including a 900-song survey with many tunes and artists listeners said they weren’t familiar with.

In short, the station needs more money. Over the past year, the station went from having two fund drives to three, but still fell short of its fundraising goals. This is amid less support from the Clark Atlanta University, the station’s primary source of funding and where it is housed. In 2012, the station pulled in $250,000 less from CAU than it did in 2011, according to its 2012 financial statement.

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