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Patti Austin & Guy Barker

Patti Austin

Jazz Voice (Rehearsal)
featuring: Patti Austin, Brendan Reilly, Claire Martin, Gwyneth Herbert
Junior Giscombe, Natalie Duncan, Juliet Roberts & Boy George
@ the Barbican Centre
9 November 2012

Click an image to enlarge.

Patti Austin biography

Patti Austin made her debut at the Apollo Theater at age four and had a contract with RCA Records when she was only five. Quincy Jones and Dinah Washington have proclaimed themselves as her godparents.

By the late 1960s Austin was a prolific session musician and commercial jingle singer. During the 1980s, signed to Jones’s Qwest Records, she began her most prolific hitmaking period. She charted twenty R&B songs between 1969 and 1991 and had success on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart, where she hit number one in 1981 with “Do You Love Me?” / “The Genie.”

The album containing that hit, “Every Home Should Have One,”also produced her biggest mainstream hit. “Baby, Come To Me,” a duet with James Ingram, initially peaked at number 73 on the Hot 100 in early 1982. After being featured as the love theme in a prominent storyline on the soap opera General Hospital, the song re-entered the pop chart in October and went to number one in February 1983. The single was certified Gold by the RIAA. She would later team up again with Ingram for “How Do You Keep The Music Playing.”

That year, Austin's single “It’s Gonna Be Special” was featured on the soundtrack for the Olivia Newton-John/John Travolta film Two of a Kind. Though the film was not the major success envisioned for the re-teaming of the Grease stars, the soundtrack went Platinum and Austin’s single, produced by Quincy Jones, became one of her highest-profile hits. “It's Gonna Be Special” peaked at #5 on the Dance charts, #15 on the R&B charts, and charted on the Hot 100 in 1984. The song also appeared on her self-titled album of that year, and its follow-up, “Rhythm of the Streets,” remixed by John ‘Jellybean’ Benitez, narrowly missed Billboard’s Dance Top Ten, though it peaked higher on Hi-NRG charts. The two songs were featured on a double-A-side 12” single. For “Rhythm of the Streets” Austin shot her first music video.

Austin released her third album in three years entitled “Getting’ Away With Murder.” In addition to the title track, she had two more hit singles, “Honey For The Bees” (#24 R&B and #6 Dance) and “The Heat of Heat.” Produced by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, noted for their later work with Janet Jackson, the latter track returned Austin to the top 15 of the R&B charts for what would be the last time to date. It would also be her last Hot 100 charting to date, although she would score a top-5 dance hit with the single “Reach” that appeared originally on her 1994 CD “That Secret Place.”

She next appeared with Jeff Bridges and Joan Allen in Francis Ford Coppola's critically acclaimed period piece Tucker: The Man and his Dream (1988). That year, Austin released “The Real Me,” a collection of standards which garnered her the first of several Top 10 showings on the Jazz Albums chart.

She sang the duet “It’s the Falling in Love” with Michael Jackson on his album “Off The Wall.” Other duet partners include George Benson (“Moody's Mood for Love” and “Keep Your Dreams Alive”), and Luther Vandross (“I'm Gonna Miss You In The Morning”). In 1985 she sang lead vocals on collaboration with her producer, Narada Michael Walden, and the single, “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme,” went top 40 on the R&B charts.

In 1991, she recorded the duet “You Who Brought Me Love” with music legend Johnny Mathis, which was received with critical acclaim. That same year she was invited to be a guest on a Johnny Mathis television special that was broadcast across North America.

During a 2007 interview promoting her latest recording, Austin reflected how as a teenager she reluctantly attended one of Judy Garland’s last concerts and the experience helped focus her career, stating “She (Judy Garland) ripped my heart out. I wanted to interpret a lyric like that, to present who I was at the moment through the lyric.”

In 2008, fifty-three years after getting her first record contract, Patti Austin was awarded her first Grammy, winning Best Jazz Vocal Album for Avant Gershwin at the 50th annual Grammy Awards. The award came for her ninth nomination in that category.

Patti Austin reported to Jim Newsom of Portfolio Weekly in 2006 “…I just lost 140 pounds.” I had gastric bypass surgery a year and a half ago, and my life was saved by it. I went to a doctor for a complete physical because I had a torn meniscus in my knee. He said, ‘You’ve got to lose this weight’ - you’ve got type II diabetes, you have asthma and you’re menopausal. You’ve got to get rid of this weight and you’ve got to get rid of it fast. This is the best way for you to do it.”

Junior Giscombe biography

Junior Giscombe first began singing in a local band at the age of 14, encouraged by the sounds of doo-wop, early Motown, soul and reggae. As the years passed however, the hobby became a full time musical career and Junior realised that his talents lay in writing and performing his own music. His first recordings date back to a cover of the ever green song “Nice and Slow” by Jessie Green, then the song which got him noticed “Hot up and Heated.”

Initially signed to Phonogram Records, 1982 saw Giscombe hit the chart heights with the infectious anthem “Mama Used To Say” which became a transatlantic hit, prompting Giscombe’s appearance as the first black British artist on Soul Train and earning him Billboard’s ‘Best Newcomer Award’ presented by the legendary James Brown. The U.S. hit, “Too late” which reached no 8 and his auspicious debut album “Ji” followed.

Giscombe’s second album “Inside Looking Out” was released in 1983 featuring the U.S.hit “Communication Breakdown.” Travelling throughout the U.S. for promotion, Giscombe teamed up with the renowned producer Arif Mardin, who was later to contribute tracks to Giscombe’s third album “Acquired Taste” released in 1984. That same year Giscombe wrote “Do You Really Want My Love?” for the multi platinum selling Beverly Hills Cop sound track album. At this time he was subsequently enjoying success as a songwriter with his compositions recorded by artists such as Phyllis Hyman and Sheena Easton.

What followed in 1987 was Giscombe’s biggest European hit, “Another Step,” a duet with Kim Wilde, which reached number 6 in the U.K charts. A string of performances including a tour with Wilde as opening act for Michael Jackson took place.

Towards the end of 1987 Giscombe completed “Sophisticated Street,” his fourth and last album for Polygram. Recorded in Minneapolis with producer Monte Moir and in L.A. with Stewart Levine, the track “Yes If You Want Me” emerged as the album’s biggest hit single, providing Giscombe with yet another top 20 U.S. R&B entry in the Spring of 1988.

Taking time off to re-evaluate his direction, Giscombe felt he needed to enhance his creative control and went on to work with his choice of producers namely; Alan Glass, Blacksmith, Simon Law (ex Soul II Soul), Robbie Taylor and Greg Smith. From this collaboration of writers/producers came the album “Stand Strong,” released on MCA. This heralded as Giscombe’s most focused work since his debut album. Mixing an exciting variety of music, the album included such outstanding tracks as the sublime “Morning Will Come” and the nasty groove of “Step Off.”

Although critically acclaimed by all who heard it, Giscombe felt the album should have achieved more…

“Both I and the record company (MCA) felt that the songs on “Stand Strong” were just too good to be ignored and so I wanted to do something to reintroduce them to a new audience. Finally we rested on the idea of re-working the tracks and producing a new album, which would include 6 new tracks so as to give something more to those people who bought “Stand Strong.” The album aptly entitled “Renewal” was released in November 1992 on MCA and it saw Giscombe continue the relaxed theme of “Morning Will Come” but taking it into the next phase. As Giscombe said, “on this album I became a lot more spiritual and lyrically I felt I became much stronger.”

In 1995 Giscombe contributed to that infamous first album by The Lighthouse Family simply entitled “Ocean Drive.” That same year he decided to set up his own Label Step Off Music, “I was meeting so many talented people that it just made sense plus there were things that I wanted to say and new I couldn’t say while being signed to a Major.” The following year saw the release of “The Best of Junior” album on Polygram. Here they were to capitalise on Giscombe’s notoriety as a brilliant songwriter/producer’ singer once again. Giscombe released “Honesty” his first album on his own label in Japan and commanded sales to the tune of 30,000 copies; this album was released in the U.K in January 1997.

Giscombe’s song writing skills have in no way been left untapped and while he has been out of the limelight, he has continued to be prolific, penning songs for a number of artistes, including Maxi Priest, Penny Ford (ex Snap), Amy Stewart, and RubyTurner.To-day we have such artistes as Heavy D, Warren.G, Cam’rom and Brand Nubians taking a lick of the classics’ “Mama Used To Say and Too Late.”

Imelda May biography

Imelda May, born in Dublin and raised in the Liberties, may be an unknown name to some, but to many she is already a superstar. She is unmistakable both in her music (a fusion of surf guitars, blues and rockabilly that wouldn’t be out of place in a David Lynch film) and her style, with a solitary curl and shock of blonde in her jet black hair. In Ireland, her debut album “Love Tattoo,” which she recorded and released on her own label, has gone Triple Platinum. She has shared a stage with Eric Clapton, Chuck Berry, David Gilmour, Sharon Shannon, Jeff Beck, Shane Macgowan, Kirsty McCall, Van Morrison, Lionel Richie, Wanda Jackson, Paul Brady and Meatloaf. And now, with the release of her new album “Mayhem,” she is about to go stellar.

Being the youngest of five siblings , May was the most susceptible to the various influences from her older brothers and sisters, which she could hear constantly through the walls of their two bedroom house. There was folk, the obligatory chart pop, and then there was Elvis. “My brother was a mad Elvis fan, and I found a tape in his room with Elvis, Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent. I thought the music was fantastic.”

By the age of nine May had fallen in love with rockabilly and the blues - the only kid in her class who wasn’t into Wet Wet Wet. Singing along to rock n roll from an early age, her tastes began to develop and deepen, first with Elmore James and then - “ I heard Billie Holiday, and that blew my mind.” After a year of art college she dropped out, deciding she would rather sing for a living. At that point, her professional experience was confined to having sung on an ad for Findus Fish Fingers at 14. “A girl in The Liberties was in the music business and she got me this ad, where I sang, ‘Betcha never put your finger on a crunchier crumb!’ I got £40 for it!” She quickly found work singing with the swing troupe Blue Harlem and rock n roller Mike Sanchez and had an interesting spell of singing in burlesque clubs: “I’d sing while the other girls were onstage. One of them used to take an angle grinder to her crotch and would produce a shower of sparks. One day a spark flew down my throat when I was singing!”

May began singing in clubs when she was 16 years old and had the honour of being occasionally barred from her own shows at Dublin’s Bruxelles club for being underage. “I was getting tips from the best musicians in Dublin. One of them said, ‘Your voice is great, but it needs to roughen.” It was around this time, when driving a tearful May to a gig that her father asked her “Is your heart broken? Excellent. Now you can sing the blues”. Remembered by May as a turning point in her life, from then on her voice developed into the sultry, rich and unique tone you hear today.

By 2006 she was itching to go solo, and formed her own band. “We started out a bit jazzier, but it needed balls and roughing up which it got.” Her debut album, “Love Tattoo” was soon released and started to get noticed. Catching the attention of Jools Holland in 2008 she supported him on tour which led to him requesting her to appear on Later. Here she performed to an audience that included Jeff Beck, Elbow and Roots Manuva and afterwards Beck made a point of telling Holland that he was only there to see Imelda May. In 2009, May knocked Bruce Springsteen off No. 1 to become the first female Irish artist to top the Irish album charts since Mary Black nearly 20 years ago. She then went on to win Female Artist of the Year at the Irish Meteor Awards. Despite album success, Imelda continued to tour, playing to over 400 000 people in 8 countries across Europe and the US – including, most recently a US tour with Jamie Cullum.

May has not only caught people’s attention musically, her striking style and unmistakable cool but quirky 50s look has led her to grace the front cover of the Irish Sunday Times Style, Roberto Cavalli flew her out to perform at his private party during the Milan Fashion Week.

2010 got off to an auspicious start when Imelda accepted an offer from Jeff Beck to perform with him at the Grammys. This was followed in April by a two-night support slot in London with one of her idols, Wanda Jackson.

Natalie Duncan biography

“I guess my music has an element of soul and songwriting, but also melody and misery.” Take one listen to “Devil In Me” and “Uncomfortable Silence” and we defy you not to fall head over heels with Nottingham born, London living Natalie Duncan. With an absolutely incredible, drop dead gorgeous vocal, the piano playing 23 year-old, whose sound is simply classic, describable, perhaps, as sitting somewhere between Radiohead and Nina Simone, pours her life into her lyrics. Indeed, as Duncan herself puts it, “If you want to know who I am, all you have to do is listen to my music.”

Having already been featured in i-D and RWD magazine, Duncan has also won fans in the form of SBTV, Radio 1/ 1Xtra’s Mistajam and Mojo. Though she shies away from the ‘P’ word, Duncan’s soul, classical and jazz infused compositions most definitely have huge crossover pop potential. Her album is songwriting at its very best, underpinned with a voice that is really quite extraordinary. Listen carefully to her multifaceted songwriting, and you’ll hear that Duncan has the ability to appeal to everyone from Jools Holland to the NME, 1Xtra to Radio 2. Indeed, as well as working with Grammy-winning producer Joe Henry (Ani DeFranco) on her own album, Duncan also features on Goldie’s latest hit, “Freedom,” released to celebrate 10 years of his label, Metalheadz.

“It was a great experience and really helpful creatively,” she notes of working with the D&B legend. “Goldie is a perfectionist and so am I – when the two world’s collide it’s either perfection or complete disaster. I think – I hope – it was the former!”

From D&B to Dubstep; last month Duncan found herself in the studio with Magnetic Man, working on a track that will appear on their second album, due later this year (2012). “Writing my own songs is a challenge as it is because I always want it to be brilliant and there’s lots of failure with that. So working with someone else, taking their ideas and trying to manipulate their ideas into working with your ideas is hard – but I really like the challenge of it,” says Duncan of collaborating with such instrumental producers. “Working with Arthur was great – he left me alone with the music so I didn’t feel this huge pressure. I’d love to work with him again.” The sounds she’s working on with both Goldie and Magnetic Man may be radically different from her own stylings, yet Duncan is someone who is able to master all types of musicality. “My songwriting, whatever type of music I’m writing to, whether mine or someone else, is quite abstract,” says the self-taught pianist. “I like to think the songs I write are more interesting than ‘just’ a love song or a pop song. I like to explore and mess around with melodies as well, being quite intricate and delicate with parts of melody – having classical elements and then making it into blues. I don’t really have a formula; I want to write a song that sounds a particular way, so I do.”

Duncan began singing, writing and playing piano at around 5 years-old. Borrowing her grandma’s piano that had found its way into her parent’s house and “dragging” her friends into her room, she “forced” them to record harmonies onto her tape recorder and held regular songwriting competitions – which she always won. “I was really anal about it whereas they weren’t that bothered,” she laughs. “I suppose that’s when I realised I was a bit obsessive about music.” During those formative years, each Saturday Duncan was exposed to her dad’s huge record collection, which included everything from Freddie McGregor to Pink Floyd, Professor Longhair and Sly & Robbie, and a range of dub, roots and blues. “I’d listen to the TV or stereo and just play along on the piano, improvising what I heard.”

Duncan’s first band was in secondary school and featured herself on drums, a bassist and a lead guitar (“it didn’t work out so well!”), which was followed by a plethora of other bands while studying music at college. Borrowing a guitarist from one of the bands – Harley Blue – Duncan finally went solo at the age of 19 and began performing her own material that she had been crafting throughout her teenage years.

Two years ago, she was approached by Goldie to work on a music project he was doing with the BBC, which led to a fruitful partnership culminating in the recent single, “Freedom.” Before that though, Duncan and her incredible songwriting caught the attention of Simon Gavin, who signed her to Decca Records last summer after seeing her perform at a pub in Nottingham in 2010. It took him nearly a year to persuade the reluctant Duncan to sign. “I just wasn’t that sure about having a record deal, I didn’t really get how it all worked to be honest. He won me round eventually though and I’m glad I’m with a label that basically sent me off to do exactly what I wanted to do and make the record I wanted to make without interference.”

Since then, Duncan has turned her demos, recorded on a basic 8-track, into a fully-fledged debut album, produced by Joe Henry. “Devil In Me” definitely has a sound even though each song is quite varied; I think that’s down to Joe and the band I was with. They’ve helped to transform my demos, which were just me and my piano, into these incredible sounding songs.”

Uncomfortable Silence was written after a breakup, when a broke Duncan was forced to live in a bedsit. “I had no money to pay for our flat and I had to live in this crap place,” she recalls. “Some people were round at my house after a party and I just felt like I was in a massive hole. I didn’t want to be by myself at all. There’s no happy ending,” she grins, noting Eliot Smith, Lauryn Hill and Pink Floyd as particularly key influences on the record.

Her debut single, the beautiful “Sky Is Falling” was written last summer, and is self-explanatory once listening to the lyrics. Heart-wrenching, wrought, Natalie’s vocal is perfectly, deftly placed; she has an innate ability to wring emotion from each note without sounding forced or overdone.

Patti Austin

Patti Austin

Juliet Roberts

Juliet Roberts

Junior Giscombe

Junior Giscombe

Junior Giscombe

Brendan Reilly

Brendan Reilly

Imelda May

Imelda May

Gwyneth Herbert

Gwyneth Herbert

Claire Martin

Claire Martin

Natalie Dumcan

Natalie Dumcan

Jazz Voice (Rehearsal)


Recommended
Listening

 

Patti Austin - Havana Candy Junior Giscombe - Stand Strong Imelda May - Love Tattoo Natalie Duncan - Devil In Me

 

Further
Recommended
Viewing

Click Juliet Robert's image below to see her @ the Hideaway, 2013...

Juliet Roberts @ the Hideaway, 2013 (click to go to her page)

Go back to the London Jazz Festival 2012 home page.

 Go back to the jazz gallery.

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