The fouth edition of Black is Back festival took place last Sunday, 12th of July 2015, in the Botanical Garden of the Complutense University of Madrid. One of the best Soul festivals in the country which covers a variety of Nu Soul – Funk – Rhythm and Blues.Artists like ‘Eli Paper Boy Reed’, ‘Nicole Willis’,'Gizelle Smith’ and ‘The Pepper Pots’ (Spain’ s most hard working Nu Soul band), as well as legendary names like ‘The Impressions’, ‘Irma Thomas’, ‘Martha Reeves and The Vandelas’ to name but a few.
This year the festival changed slightly its name to ‘Black is Back Soul Party’ and the location in which it was held, from Matadero to the garden of Complutense University. It didn’t change though its innegable quality and the standards. This year it was the turn of the Soul explosive British act of ‘Hannah Williams and the Tastemakers’ along with the new voice of Rhythm’Blues in uk, ‘Myles Sanko’ and the retro-soul blowout of ‘Sonny Knight & The Lakers’. ‘The Black Panther of Soul David Hooper’ with the ‘Silverbucks’ and of course the darlings of Spanish audience ‘Lisa and The Lips’. All these plus the chance to see and meet your favourite artists in one of the most beautiful parks in the cty, was a guarantee of having a spectacular time. Parents with children could as easily vist the area of the festival as well, after the venue was suitable both for adults and minors.
The great David “Silky Smooth” Hooper and the Silverbucks’ triggered the beginning of the Soul party (replacing the Vintage Trouble from Los Angeles) presenting his album “It’s My Turn”. And it was his turn to warm up everybody for the ‘Hannah Williams and the Tastemakers’, who presented (with the absence of their synth player who missed the flight) mostly new stuff form their upcoming new record. Hannah Williams is one of the most emerging new voices in soul music with an extraordinary dynamic style on stage, always singing barefoot! Those who missed her last Sunday, will have the chance to see her on the 25th of July when she returns to Spain.
The Uk based singer Myles Sanko, who released one of the best Soul albums of last year, was next. It was the second time for Myles in Madrid. He had visited during winter for the first time, leaving the best impressions to the madrilenians. “I want my music to be a real place to feel alive. True motivation is the reaction I get from my audience when I perform, and I intend on making music that I love listening to. It’s the only way to stay authentic and to not lose yourself in all the other musical influences out there.”
And that’s exactly what he did. He presented his latest work ‘Forever Dreaming’ along with a couple of old songs and a medley of ‘Mercy Mercy me / What’s going on’ paying tribute to the great Marvin! He might forgot to include ‘Shooting Star’ but the set was more than complete.
After a short break, it was ‘Sonny Knight’s’ turn along with the ‘Lakers’ to prove his indisputable talent.
It was a real experience watching Sonny Knight. The once “lost” soul singer spent the year putting on 60some high energy, low bottomed gigs with his young, funk blasting band the ‘Lakers.’ And ithis is exactly what he did last Sunday in Madrid. And I believe it was the live with the most people closer to the stage.
Last but not least the ‘Lisa and the Lips’ with Lisa Kekaula the ex-singer of Bellrays, starting out with a mid-pace soul groove, before breaking out to a rocking fury. The members of the band can’t hide their sympathy for the synth player and often ‘pay a visit’ around him, they are highly energetic and they rock on. Lisa Kekaula dominates the stage banging her tambourine. The chemistry between them is more than obvious and makes you think of them as the best band for closing such a great night.
Black is Back Soul Party proved to be ‘Una Fiesta Grande’ as the Spanish would say. A festival that is not afraid to combine the old with the new in the sense of quality and quantity. One day before the same festival with a small change on the line upm took place in Santander. ‘Heart of Gold’, the team behind the festival not only knows how to choose the best bands but the best places as well. We are definitely looking forward for more ‘Black is Back Soul Parties’ to come.
Jose James and Avishai Cohen’ s New York Division
How can an ex-rapper from New York evolve to one of the biggest names of the most important Jazz label like Blue Note? Well, Jose James is the living proof to that. He is the artist who combines jazz, soul, drum’n'bass, and spoken word into his own unique brand of vocal jazz. If this is not enough, his live performances can convince even the most demanding audience. Jose James is the real deal and his reputation precedes him.
A regular visitor of Madrid, he came to Madgarden Festival to present his new album ‘Yesterday I Had The Blues’ a tribute to his “musical mother” Billie Holiday. His setlist consisted of some of the classic covers like ‘Good Morning Heartache’, ‘Body and Soul’ and ‘Strange Fruit’ that speak for themselves. Along with some classics of his own, like ‘Come to My Door’, in which encouraged the audience to sing along, and of course ‘Trouble’ when, for the first time in his carrier, invited people from the audience to join him on stage. Jose James does this thing where he looks like both an emcee and a maestro. When he performs solo voice, his hands zig zag up and down, not just to the beat but the direction his next note is heading. As the show pushes forward the hip hop hand gestures are still there.
After a short brake Avishai Cohen and his musicians appeared on stage. The audience was divided into those who came to watch Jose James and those who came for Avishai Cohen. It was the first time I had the chance to see them playing live, and it was a real experience. I can’ t recall a jazz band playing in such a style ans harmony. With guitarist and drummer on an extraordinary day they made an interestingly symmetrical appearance on stage, which matched their respective sounds. It was a thrilling jazz performance from a born entertainer. A performer hard to beat, that takes his music beyond hardcore jazz fans to a wider younger audience that can appreciate good music when it is presented.
Thirty years passed since Suzzane Vega’s last appearance in Madrid. That is more than important reason to attend the concert of the New York singer songwriter, plus the fact that her voice still sounds amazing.
Backed only by Gerry Leonard on electric guitar she promoted he latest work ‘Tales From the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles’ and she looked in perfect shape both lyrically and physically. For the needs of ‘Marlene on the Wall’ Suzanne wears her high black hat and she looks just like an English gentleman, with a black dress though.
As a spiritual raconteur, she explains that ‘Crack in the Wall’ is about “a glimpse into a spiritual world beyond this one”, while an unexpected Spanish version of her classic hit ‘Luka’ moves further the Spanish audience. Of course the accoustic version of ‘Tom’s Dinner’ is not missing. It was after all a big hit back in the 80′s, when she collaborated with DNA. ‘I only wear white’ was one of the highlights of the night, and personal favourite, as well as ‘Jacob and the Angel’ from her latest album.
Suzanne Vega is a great story teller and she knows exactly when to start telling one, that’s why between the songs we enjoy every little word she says. Her kind face and her amazing voice astonish the crowd and her little dancing makes even the older want to get up and dance along. After all these years not only she got more mature but she is growning up nicely.