In 2012 I wrote a blog about the talented vocalist Nancy Goudinaki aka Nancy G. I’m glad to say one of my treasured recent gifts is a signed copy of her new album entitled ‘I Wanna Be Your Star.’ I’ve been listening to it quite a bit in my studio recently. I was quite excited to get the CD ! In addition to the great music, it has great sleeve artwork, a portrait of Nancy, by the very talented visual artist Gina Nelson.
The CD adds up to be a worthy addition to my ever-growing music collection and certainly lives up to expectations. Listening to the album only reminds me of Nancy’s talent, energy and natural synergy with jazz music; a unique development of moods, ambiances, and phrases. The album showcases her flexibility as an artist, her freedom of expression and the virtuosity of her band featuring Orrin Evans on Piano, Tenor Saxophonist JD Allen, Rudy Royston on drums and the late great Dwayne Burno on bass. The album also features the talents of vocalist Miles Griffith, percussionist Daniel Sadownick and bass player/album producer Richie Goods.
Each track is very different. Some, such as ‘Milonga’, appear to have a more authentically European and folk influenced through their orchestration while others such as Billie Holiday’s ‘Fine and Mellow’ have a rich classic component. Nancy’s vocal tone and style seems reminiscent of notable artists such as Abbey Lincoln or Lena Horne.
‘I Wanna be Your Star’ is template for any female jazz singer/songwriter. I’ve found it an intimate and emotional album that is uncompromising, intense and comforting. For further info on Nancy G visit www.jazzynancyg.com or to buy your own copy please http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/nancygoudinaki
Back in the UK and just in time for one of November’s highlights- The London Jazz Festival. The EFG London Jazz Festival is the capital’s biggest pan-city music festival, presenting famous world-class artists well as emerging stars who perform at notable venues such as the Barbican, Royal Festival Hall, Ronnie Scotts and the Albert Hall. The festival has being going since 1992 and emerged from the long-standing Camden Jazz Week created in 1970 by Serious, the live international music producers.
This year’s show includes a photography exhibition by David Redfern and the talented Edu Hawkins, which I encourage you to see if you’re local. Redfern, the only non American to feature in the Jazz Times ‘ Special Collectors Edition’ has selected just a small but quality selection of limited prints for sale. His career began in the twilight jazz clubs of 1960’s London, photographing artists such as Kenny Ball and George Melly. Further to his work on TV shows, nights spent at 100 Club, Marquee or Ronnie Scotts and being an official tour photographer, he has amassed a portfolio of work featuring icons of jazz such as Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Art Blakey and Duke Ellington.
The show runs for the duration of the festival (10th -24th Nov) at LONDON Southbank Centre / Foyer Spaces Belvedere Road London SE1 8XX. For further details on concerts and talks visit http://www.londonjazzfestival.org.uk/
You may have seen my video entitled ‘The Conversation” featuring the talented singer songwriter Lifford David Shillingford. Lifford is one of the UK’s most talented singer songwriters and I’m excited to see him on the verge of releasing a new EP and album later this year. ‘Sinking Swimming’ is the first release from Lifford’s down tempo solo project called Blue Dye – Soul Sessions.
His first release ,aged just 17, was a collaboration with MC Mushtaq on a track called ‘Take You Home’ which fuelled his new passion leading him to become the front man in a group called Public Demand. Public Demand was signed to ZTT through a development deal. During a writing trip in America the group penned a song that captured the interest of Trevor Horn who duly took the track into the studio. ‘Invisible’ was critically acclaimed as a breakthrough single and considered brave, mature and ahead of its time.
Lifford’s success continued with his collaboration with the Artful Dodger, most notably on the track ‘Please don’t turn me on!” He recently took time out of his busy schedule to have a chat about life and his chosen art form.
DEN: Congratulations on your track and forthcoming album. Tell me about your promotional schedule for the coming months?
LS: Thank you David, we have a busy few months in store with the release of an EP in the summer and an album later on in the year. My priority this year is to get some Soul music out for people to get into. Plans are taking place for a promotional tour in the summer to work along side the release of the EP with a launch party in July. Dates and times will be confirmed very soon. We’re just testing the water with this material to see how it’s received.
DEN: You gained success as the front man for Public Demand but you’re synonymous with the Artful Dodger and the tune “ Please Don’t Turn me on.’ What impact has it had on your career to date and has it been easy to follow on with equally successful songs?
LS: Yes Public Demand was a great time for me as was the Artful Dodger song. It gave me huge exposure and a great platform to work from which is still working for me today. It’s always hard to follow a massive tune with something equally as good. The group Artful Dodger was of its time and was the most successful Garage act with a platinum selling album. I’m happy with my writing now and have some gems to drop this year that I’m really looking forward to.
DEN: It’s been a few years now but are you in touch with the Artful D?
LS: Yes I’m touch with them all; they’re all doing different things but everyone’s well.
DEN: You’re a talented singer and songwriter. For me, your work reflects a truly sincere expression of feelings and emotions. Where do you gain your inspiration to produce material?
LS: Thanks David, I write about my life and the people around me, conversations I have and thoughts I process. I try to be as honest as possible about music and words. I find this so much easier than trying to create something I can’t relate to. I have to create honest music.
DEN: You’re open to discuss your experiences in dealing with depression. Would you mind talking about this and some of the charities you’re working with to help raise awareness of depression and mental illnesses?
LS: I’ve been suffering from depression since I was a child and its something that I’ve finally learned to deal with over the last few years. It’s a part of my life, sometimes more prominent than others. Depression has taken me to some dark places, questioning my self worth and my existence as seen on my blog but it has also helped to make me stronger, realizing and appreciating all that is good about my life too. I make a conscious effort to count my blessings and be around people who I feel good around. I have to keep an eye out for my triggers, the things which could make me take a fall or throw me off track but generally I’m managing it. Time to change have posted my blog up and have been really supportive as have been mental health charity ‘Mind.’ I’m also doing some speaking for some non-profit organisations for the youth, singing and sharing my experiences with mental health.
DEN: What have been the biggest obstacles if any in your career as an artist?
LS: The biggest obstacles for me as an artist would be funding without a doubt. Just getting someone to inject some cash into my projects is a lot harder than it was when I first started in this game.
DEN: You’ve collaborated with a number of recognised artists including Chaka Khan, Jocelyn Brown, Bluey (Incognito) Charlene Anderson and Omar. Are there any artists in particular who inspire you?
LS: I’m inspired by Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Nina Simone, Miguel, Antony Hamilton. Anyone who gives their all on and off stage.
DEN: Who ideally would you like to collaborate with?
LS: I’d love to work with Miguel, Antony Hamilton, Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin, Al green, Marvin Gaye, Frank Sinatra, Bob Marley… anyone I could learn from .. Ooo could go on for days ..
I wish Lifford the greatest success and good fortune!
Looking forward to the holiday season as it provides time to be with loved ones plus be creative. One of my favourite artists and tracks at present is Gregory Porter’s Painted on Canvas. It inspires me plus I like the lyrics. A nice track to listen to whilst painting!
It’s great feeling being inspired, motivated and encouraged when you discover friends and fellow artists making advances with their careers. Nancy G is an amazing up and coming jazz vocalist and guitarist, currently making her mark on the New York jazz scene. Hailing from Greece she now lives and performs throughout the New York City area. At the very early age of eight Nancy knew she wanted to pursue music, learning to play classical guitar. She studied with Costas Cotsiolis, the master classical guitarist, receiving her degree in classical guitar.
Her singing career began when Lakis Tzimkas, an accomplished Greek bassist, invited her to feature as a vocalist in his band. While in Greece, Nancy performed as a vocalist in Athens and Thessaloniki, her hometown at various jazz venues, restaurants, hotels and private functions.
After receiving her B.A. in Music/Fine Arts in 2007 from Aristotle University, she moved to New York City, ready to pursue her dream of performing whilst continuing her study of jazz vocals. She has studied with many accomplished vocalists including JD Walter, Miles Griffith, Cynthia Scott (member of the legendary Ray Charles vocal group “The Raelettes”), Barry Harris and many more.
Her debut album entitled “I want to be your star” (the English translation of Nancy’s first original song written in Greek) with pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Dwayne Burno, saxophonist JD Allen, and drummer Rudy Royston, with special guests, vocalist Miles Griffith, bassist Richie Goods and percussionist Daniel Sadownick is released this year. In customary fashion I share a conversation I had with her about her career to date.
You are talented in both singing and song writing but which do you prefer ?
Well I’ m doing my first steps in song writing. I can’t compare these two things because they are so different. Of course you give your soul to both of them. Maybe in song writing you add a little more from your personal experiences. At least the 2 tunes featured on my album which I composed came from my personal canvas… When you have two ingredients, love and a broken heart, the results are good songs. I think myself more a singer who occasionally composes when inspiration strikes.
Q:To date, what’s your biggest achievement as an artist?
The life of an artist is a constant fight to improve his or her art. In my personal path there have been good and bad days. Some of the small victories are I’ve become a better musician, I still continue to grow as an artist, collaborate with great musicians and perform at well-known jazz clubs. And as I referred to jazz clubs, I’m thrilled to announce that on November 18th I’m invited to perform at John Hart’s Jazz party with vocalist Cyrille Aimee and guest vocalist myself, at the legendary “BIRDLAND”, the Charlie Parker’s jazz corner. This day is very special for me because I am celebrating my 5 year anniversary in NYC. It was November 18th, 5 years ago, when I first landed in this city and I am excited to celebrate in Birdland.
Q:How does the New York/ Philly scene compare to your experience of learning your art in Greece?
Well my first steps in Greece were excellent. My career as a vocalist began when Lakis Tzimkas, an accomplished Greek bassist, discovered me and chose me as a featured vocalist in his new jazz band. Lakis gave me the opportunity to perform on stage with the best musicians in town; saxophonist Charis Kapetanakis, guitarist Makis Stefanidis and drummer Nikos Variamidis. I owe these musicians a lot because I learned a lot from them. It ‘s very important to collaborate with good musicians. Then the next step was to move on. Where else but New York the “The Mecca of Arts”! All the talented people from all around the world come to NYC to expose their talents. The competition is huge. “If you can make it in NY you can make it everywhere…” But the learning that takes place here is tremendous too! Of course, Philly is producing mighty musicians. I’m very fortunate to have musicians from Philadelphia on my record. So all of this “traveling” helped me to grow musically.
I can appreciate what you mean. NY is definitely a Mecca of the arts and I’ve met some wonderfully talented people in this city from various corners of the globe. Equally, I’m coming across a number of rising stars from Philly. I’m always keen to see artists pursue their dreams whilst overcoming obstacles.
Q: What have been the biggest obstacles if any in your career to date?
Hmmm… lots of things… First of all the city itself. NYC is one of the sweetest and also toughest cities in the world. The competition is fierce. Some of the best musicians and singers are here. And in my case, as a jazz singer, I have to compete with many good singers, some of them were born in to this jazz tradition. You have to bring something different and something special in order to stand out and of course to love deeply and respect your art. Being able to perform in some of the legendary scenes and receive positive feedback gives me strength to go on. Sometimes I think it’s hard to be a woman in this city, all by yourself, and especially a woman in music business. On the other hand, there are obstacles that come from my own self. Research – concerns to be the best I can be in my art. And of course not to lose Nancy, myself, in the process. All the obstacles that crossed my path in my personal life, affected my musical development, sometimes in a good and sometimes in a bad way. I am however, blessed and very lucky that my music family here opened its arms and gave a huge hug to a Greek girl …
Q:You are originally from Detroit? What is the story behind your hometown and do you miss it?
Haha.. That was an inside joke with my producer Richie Goods that I m originally from Detroit!!! The story? Dreams and goals to improve and grow as a musician. Of course I miss my country Greece but I love my new home, New York, and of course DETROIT!!! 🙂
Q:How would you summarise the experience of producing your first album?
My first album… It sounds and it feels good! Since I was a little girl I was dreaming that one day I will have my own record! 🙂 This album was created in a difficult period of personal and professional transformation. Having completed it and listening to the result is very rewarding. The experience of collaborating with these fabulous musicians in the studio is unique! Working with Richie Goods who is producing the record is a huge school! And not only with Richie but with all the musicians who played in the record… Orrin Evans, Dwayne Burno, JD Allen, Rudy Royston, Miles Griffith, Daniel Sadownick, thank you all for your love and support.
Q: Is it fair to say you’re a musician working within a genre that isn’t the most commercially rewarding? Will you explore a variance of music styles or is jazz exclusively your field of music?
It is fair to say that I am a musician – vocalist who sings and plays in guitar the music that she truly likes and adores. But it is true that being a musician and trying to make ends meet solely from music is very difficult. Thank God I have partially solved “the survival” problem. I’m a music educator. I’ve been teaching classical guitar for 15 years and voice for the last 5 years to kids, an experience I have benefited a lot from. Sure I am open to expand my musical horizons. I have already done it and I will always strive for more. I have a classical background. I have a diploma in classical guitar and a BA in Musicology but for me Jazz is the style of music that I m in love so far… I can t predict what is going to happen after 5-10 years.
Q:Are there any artists in particular who inspire you?
All I can say is that I listen to a lot of music and it is difficult to say who inspires me the most… Good music inspires me. If you check my iPod you’ll find a lot of musicians and different styles…
Q: Who ideally would you like to collaborate with?
Hm… There is lots of people I admire and I would love to collaborate with but ideally, if I had to pick one, I would go with Mr Wynton Marsalis for now.
Q: So what are you plans for the next year?
My plans for the next year… Uhm.. I’m not a person who’s planning ahead. Not so good in this business though… Well, it is going to be great to have a new record and of course touring with my band and presenting my work…
I congratulate Nancy on her forthcoming performance at Birdland and wish her the very best for a rich and rewarding career. For further information please visit the Nancy G. official Facebook webpage or Birdland for details on the weekend performance
I’m always motivated to be as creative as I can be after meeting the most talented and interesting people. On the eve of a series of live performances, I had the chance to catch up with the Mobo Award nominee Ayanna Witter-Johnson for a chat and a few questions about her blossoming career.
Congratulations on your MOBO nomination for best jazz act. I’ve listened to your amazing EP. Is there a particular theme behind it?
It is an honest snapshot of my artistry in August 2011. Those were the songs that had revealed some of my journey and lived with me, resonating most deeply with my audience at that time.
Sonically it was an introduction to what I do as a performer in its essence that is sing and play the cello. Thus the sound was very stripped back and purely acoustic.
You’re talented in both singing and song writing but which do you prefer?
Singing because connecting with an audience in real-time is where I feel most at home.
How did you get into music?
I started playing the piano classically at 4 years old, later taking up the cello at 13. Growing up, I went to various stage schools and got a feel for being a performer in general, including dancing and acting as well as music. The turning point was being invited to perform at a jam session at the Jazz Café when I was 19 years old. From then on I began to use my voice and eventually started to develop my craft as a singer/cellist at a gig in a Caribbean restaurant in Greenwich during my undergraduate studies at Trinity College of Music.
Are there any artists in particular who inspire you?
Nina Simone, Roberta Flack and Bach.
Who ideally would you like to collaborate with?
I would love to collaborate with the London Symphony Orchestra, Take Six, Bjork and Timbaland.
So what are your plans for the next year?
To release my first full-length album, tour the UK and the US, complete my residency as a composer on the London Symphony Orchestra’s Soundhub Scheme and to continue being a student of life.
I wish Ayanna the very best with the nomination and her career. Dates for her upcoming performances include:
This September I’m fortunate to be involved in two worthwhile initiatives on each side of the Atlantic. “Untold Gold’ is a two week event in London showcasing the amazing breadth, quality and originality of black creativity from around the world. The event forms part of London’s Design Festival showcasing the city’s pivotal role in global design. The African & African- Caribbean Design Diaspora (AACDD) places the outstandingly beautiful and original work of more than 150 creative professionals from the UK, mainland Europe, Africa and the Caribbean within the unique backdrop and raw space of Bargehouse, on London’s South Bank.
This show runs from September 19thto 30th and will include art, design, architecture, home furnishings, jewellery and fashion as well as live music and performances. This is a free event so please visit. I’ve seen some of the excellent work from my fellow exhibitors and I’m sure you’ll be amazed. Your support is welcomed if you’re in town! For further information please visit http://aacdd.org/