Darryl Yokley ‘s Sound Reformation includes regular band members Zaccai Curtis on piano, Luques Curtis on bass, Wayne Smith Jr. on the drums, and special guest Nasheet Waits on the drums. This project has increased its momentum over the course of a year with the band first recording as small group followed with the wind ensemble. One of my original pieces will accompany each piece of music featured on the album.
Now in the final phase, we are hoping to raise funds for the mixing, mastering, packaging and distribution, as well as promotional and marketing cost. With certain levels of contributions you will be able to receive some amazing perks such as early copies of the album, signed copies of the album, prints of the artwork, and more! This project is 100% completely independent and while our desired target mark is $6,000, if we do not reach this cost we will still put all contributions towards the completion of this project. If we are fortunate enough to receive more than our desired cost we will use these funds to promote the album to the best of our ability to make it a success, and if we receive further funding from this campaign it would go towards the budget for recording the second part of this music and arts collaboration.
With art initiatives and funding streams across the US constantly taking budget cuts and some being removed from the schools, Darryl is hoping this project will come to fruition and serve as an example for others to see what’s possible if they use their creative powers. Darryl has drawn inspiration from African art and music, jazz music, classical music, as well as the artwork of myself and other visual artists.
I hope you will find this project deserving of your support. Even if you’re unable to donate at this time your help in spreading the word to friends and family about the project would be very much appreciated and hopefully garner more support to bring it to life.
For further information or to support please watch the video or click on the following link.
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!
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:
Okay, so now we’re into July! The year is going quickly but this month does have its rewards. You may recall my previous blog ‘In Conversation with Darryl Yokley’. I’ve had the pleasure of keeping in touch with this very talented individual. Observing Darryl’s discipline and dedication to music has been inspiring and I take pleasure in congratulating him on releasing his first album entitled ‘ The Void ’ this month.
Yokley’s Sound Reformation debut album radiates vigorous, passionate, improvised music built on simple tunes with effective and powerful arrangements. ‘Waltz of the Infidels’ and ‘Voo Doo’ are two tracks currently available to listen to on Soundcloud.
The album is a measure of considerable artistry, executed with an experienced cohort of musicians; Duane Eubanks on trumpet, George Burton on piano, Luques Curtis on bass, and Wayne Smith Jr. on drums.
Duane Eubanks has one of the most unique sounds and approaches to playing the trumpet. He currently plays with Mulgrew Millers Wingspan, the Dave Holland Big Band and has played with such greats as Elvin Jones.
George Burton has played with Odean Pope, Jack Walrath, Sean Jones and Tia Fuller and is one of the most creative and sought after pianists on the scene today. Luques Curtis plays a variety of styles of music, working with acts such as with Eddie Palmieri, Sean Jones, Ninety Miles High and The Curtis Brothers, a group he co-leads with pianist Zaccai Curtis. From Philadelphia, Wayne Smith jr has his a unique style on the drums, playing with acts such as Sun Ra Arkestra and Three Blind Mice.
On the launch of the album, Darryl took time out of his busy schedule to share thoughts and answer some questions
DEN -Is there an identifiable theme for each track or throughout the album?
Darryl Yokley- My concept behind this first album was to try and present a myriad of musical influences that I’ve embraced over the years and show how it has shaped me as a composer and player up to this point. I wanted to have tunes on here that are swinging originals, tunes that you could quite possibly hear as music to a movie, and tunes deriving influences from the music of other countries. The Void, the title track of the album, is a combination of these various influences. I find it fascinating that people get pegged as being a certain type of player, he/she can only do this, all his/her tunes sound the same and so on and so forth. I wanted to present music with a broad scope compositionally and playing wise so as hopefully not be placed into any category, hence the title of the final track and the album.
DEN- It’s been long process but this album’s complete. I commend you on this achievement. How would you sum up the experience of producing it?
Darryl Yokley – It’s been a long and tiring process but a necessary one that I’ve enjoyed. From recording the music, sick as can be with no voice, listening to the product obsessively and now to the production and business side of it, I’ve enjoyed the entire experience of creating the album. As I am wrapping up this first one I’m already in the process of getting set up for the second so I don’t really have time to enjoy the fruits of the labour. I’ve got to jump right back into the fire and follow up with the next project.
DEN- How will you be promoting it over coming months?
I have two tracks up on sound cloud at the moment and I’ll be putting up one or two more preview tracks in the coming week. I’ll be submitting The Void to different radio stations for play, some critics to get reviews in the papers, along with the social networks I am on already (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Google +, Tumblr, and LinkedIn) I am in the process of creating a website so The Void and other upcoming projects and performances will be up on there.
DEN- Now that you’re already writing material for a second album, will there be time for further collaborations with other musical acts? Is this a call out for vocalists and other artists to collaborate; would you be happy to write or produce for others?
Darryl Yokley – Even though I am writing music for the second album I’m definitely always open to collaborations with other artists whether it would be writing and/or arranging, playing, producing or combinations of the three. It gives me an opportunity to learn from another person’s creativity and just enjoy the act of conversing artistically with someone new. I plan on doing some work with vocalists in the album after the one I’m preparing for. The third one will have vocals and in a context that will be quite unpredictable.
As you should be aware, I take pleasure in reporting the professional advance of fellow artists. I find it motivational and hugely encouraging to observe the ambition, tenacity and will of individuals pursuing their interests, developing their careers and moving closer to fulfilling their dreams. I take particular pleasure in witnessing the progress of my cousin Fae Simon as she moves forward, establishing her credentials as a singer-songwriter and painter.
Trained in opera and jazz, Fae revels in live performances. Drawing from all her musical influences, Fae has idiosyncratically fused hip-hop, jazz, rare groove, soul and dub in her song writing. Having toured the London unsigned scene, performing tracks from her debut album, “Mellowdrama” she has become a firm underground favourite. Her track entitled ‘New Londinium’ features on my video ‘Let’s Jam- A Painting in the Making.’
Gaining further performance experience from supporting N’Dambi at London’s Jazz Café and touring with Yarah Bravo & Trommel Tobi on her ‘Good Girls Rarely Make History’ tour, Fae has introduced Europe to a new facet of her style. After headlining ‘Got Soul’ at the Bohannon Jazz Club Berlin in November 2010, the next year brought two fresh releases. The first was ‘RoyalFlushLushSelf’ taken from the ‘Faerie in the Cloudz’ EP, an experimental collaborative EP reflecting a journey of the alter egos of Jonas McCloud aka CloudFistConceptz; and Fae Simon aka the AfroFaerie, available for download on the ‘Untold Songs’ compilation for Amnesty International. The second was ‘I See You’ a reggae/dub hit on the ‘Love The Music’ compilation released by Ryff Music in conjunction with the Caribbean Tourist Organization, featuring Singing Melody and Aloe Blacc. I take pleasure sharing a recent conversation with I had with her.
DEN: You’re a talented painter as well as a singer- songwriter so are you furthering your visual art career?
FAE: I have just successfully exhibited & sold my first pop art piece in Berlin, for the annual artshow and am working on 3 canvases for exhibiting at Yarah Bravo’s ‘Pop-Up’ store, which should be back in Brick Lane next month.
DEN: Since I can remember you’ve been singing but how did you get into it?
FAE: I attended the Weekend Arts College where I received voice & dance tuition from professionals. Julie Dexter was my singing teacher. I then started working on my own music by collaborating with producers I’d met or knew, the first being Jnr Sas from the Planets…and the rest is my autobiography…lol…
DEN: Who is your greatest inspiration within the industry?
FAE: That is a BIG question because I don’t really know! I’d say Lauryn Hill, because she can sing, act & is one of the best female rappers ever! She was iconic as a young dark-skinned, natural-haired woman in a crew with men. She showed me that I could do it all & do it well when I was young. Aim high!!
DEN: Of your contemporaries, who would you like to work with and why?
FAE: Ooooh, the hard questions keep coming!
DEN: Ok, I’ll let you think on that one. I loved the energy and eclectic sounds of your last album. What should we expect of your second?
FAE: Even more! I have more collaborations with featured artists, not just producers; such as John Robinson & Pugs Atomz, as well as some fully live tracks. You will even hear me rapping on it too! I’m really excited about it!
DEN: Many UK RnB female singers have their sights set on the US and overseas. I know you’ve toured Europe in recent years so what’s next on your agenda?
FAE: I’m not an RnB singer, but yes I hope to get out to the US asap!
One of my tracks ‘I See You’ was released on the ‘Love the Music’ compilation for the Caribbean Tourist Board but released by Ryff Music in Atlanta who are hopefully going release more tracks of mine that will get promoted in the US. The track & compilation are available on iTunes. For now, I’m on Jehst’s 2nd UK tour & feature on the remix album of ‘A Dragon of an Ordinary Family’
I wish her the best of luck with her career. For further information on Fae Simon please visit.
Over the last few years I’ve been privileged to meet a number of talented singer/songwriters. I’m glad to say I’m witnessing their deserved rise in success and recognition . One artist I advise you to look out for is friend Mark Vodery. Mark is about the perform as part of the National Jazz Appreciation Month in South Carolina on April 13th & 14th. We caught up in New York as he prepares for his big dates.
Q: How did you get into the industry?
Mark Vodery : I’ve always loved music. One day I was at my job looking around and decided, “this can’t be it.” I woke up thinking about music and went to sleep thinking about music. They say that’s the definition of your passion in life. So I secretly started taking singing lessons from an opera teacher in South Philadelphia. One night, at an event in a jazz club, a guitarist was playing and asked someone to come up and sing with him. We wound up doing two jazz standards. Someone I knew that managed some local artists was in the audience. We talked and it lead to performances inDelaware and Philly nightclubs. I eventually moved toHarlem and won on “It’s Showtime at the Apollo”. I’ve been grinding in NYC ever since!
Q: Which artists have been most influential on your career to date?
Mark Vodery : Jeffrey Osborne, Will Downing, Michael McDonald, James Ingram, Donny Hathaway, Stevie, Luther; I ‘m a huge fan of soulful strong voices.
Q: Which of your comtemporaries would you most like to work with and why?
Mark Vodery : I would love to work with Sade. She seems so comfortable in who she is as an artist. When you hear her, it’s undeniably her. The quality of her work speaks for itself and I feel our voices would compliment one another. India Irie is another. She is an incredible songwriter.
Q: The track ‘Everything Must Change ‘ illustrates that you’re a talented artist with a mature, distinctive style and strength to your voice. What demographic would you say your music caters for? Mark Vodery : I had someone describe my music as “grown and sexy”. I would never say that, but I liked the feel of it (Laughing). There is a demographic of people who are supporting the soulful artists of the 80’s and 90’s because there are limited outlets for this music. I wouldn’t want to put an age to that demographic. Those people that enjoy soulful vocals with meaningful lyrics, those are the people that I aspire to touch with my music.
Q: I like the video.When and where did you film it?
Mark Vodery: We filmed it in the Village late February. I was happy with the feel of the video. TheNew York City back drop complimented the song.
Q: Like every singer/songwriter, you aspire to be successful. Does this mean we’ll see further diversity in the type of music you’ll produce in order to increase your commercial appeal?
Mark Vodery : I’m a fan of such a diverse spectrum of music. My Ipod could be playing
Seal and the next song could be Tool. I’m always open to new opportunities to explore. That being said, it’s important to know who you are as an artist. If you just change your style in order to appeal commercially, then I feel that there is an integrity issue. Of course we’re here to make a living. Believe me, I get it. But I feel that purpose is essential to an artist.
Q: You’re about to perform at the Le Café Jazz in Columbia as part of the National Jazz Appreciation Month. Could you tell me more about it?
Mark Vodery: Yes, I’m excited about the opportunity to bring my music toColumbia,South Carolina for this event. I will do some Jazz Standards, but the foundation of my set will be original music mostly from my Soulful Sessions EP Available on I Tunes now(Laughing).
Q: So what else does the future hold for you?
Mark Vodery: I hope to exponentially increase my fan base and book internationally. I’m currently working on an album that is being independently funded. In other words, “my pocket” (Laughing). I’m also courting new management, in order to work on a more global scale and expand the amount of people that I can touch with my music. This is an amazing ride with ups and downs but I know that I’m blessed to be able to do it. So many people come out to escape their lives for an hour or two. If I can touch one person positively, inspiring them in any way, then I have done my job as an artist.