Few words about THE SOULJAZZ ORCHESTRA: The miniature Canadian big band dexterously and seamlessly blends engaged and multifaceted African rhythms (Afrobeat, highlife, Ethiopian groove) and South American vibes (rumba, samba, salsa, mambo), backed by effectively administered portions of spiritual jazz, soul and funk. Founded in 2002, Souljazz attained widespread recognition when an influential English radio host, Gilles Peterson, nominated the Orchestra’s single, Mista President, as one of his top ten tracks of 2006. While their current album, Inner Fire, has topped the independent as well as mainstream charts in Canada and internationally, their fiery, spirited concerts tend to sell out well in advance.
Pierre Chrétien, vintage keyboards, percussion, vocals; Marielle Rivard, percussion, vocals; Steve Patterson, tenor saxophone, percussion, vocals; Ray Murray, baritone saxophone, percussion, vocals; Zakari Frantz, alto saxophone, flute, percussion, vocals; Philippe Lafrenière, drums, percussion, vocals
We talked with them before their performance on Ljubljana Jazz Festival
Q:How did The SoulJazz Orchestra story started ?
TSJO: Way back in 2002, we started out as friends first, hanging out in the same spots, digging the same music. We started jamming together, just for fun, and things just took off from there.
Q: Influences of Latin & Afrobeat can be hear in your music, but you come from Canada.
TSJO: Yes, Canada is a very multicultural country, especially urban centres like Ottawa, Montreal or Toronto. Canada has one of the highest immigration rates per capita in the world, and as a result, the music scene is very diverse. Our mix of North American jazz, soul and funk with Afro, Latin & Caribbean music is a reflection of the cosmopolitan environment in which we have evolved as musicians.
TSJO: It’s a great fit for us I think. We really like working with Quinton Scott, the head of the label, we tend to really see eye-to-eye on things. It’s also quite an honour for us to be on the same label as so many of our favourite artists – we were big fans of Strut before we signed on ourselves.
Q: You released your latest album INNER FIRE earlier this year. How do you compare it to your previous albums.
TSJO : Inner Fire is a bit of a synthesis of everything we’ve touched on throughout the years: it has some of the afro elements of our earlier albums, with the spiritual jazz of Rising Sun, and the tropical grooves of Solidarity. It’s one of our favourites really, it really captures what we’re all about, we’re really happy with the way it turned out.
Q: You’re known for your live performances. How much of that do you try to bring into the studio experience?
TSJO: Well, we really focus on delivering good solid live performances in the studio as well, rather than relying on computer gimmicks to make us sound good. The fact that we play so much live really helps too.
Q: Why do you think that the audience for this style of music has grown so exponentially over the years?
TSJO: It’s hard to say… I think a lot of kids that grew up on sample-based hip-hop and electronic music in the 1980s and 1990s started digging deeper, checking out the original soul, funk and jazz breaks, and maybe from there ventured further out into Afro, Latin & Caribbean territory. I think it’s all about wanting to find the roots, groove-based music with a certain depth and meaning.
Q: How did you feel when your song MISTA PRESIDENT was voted to the number nine spot in the 2006 Top 30 of BBC DJ GILLES PETERSON ‘s Worldwide programme ? Did anything changed for the group after that?
TSJO: Well, in retrospect, that was definitely a breakthrough moment for us, a lot of things started hapenning for us after that – airplay across the world, signing to Do Right and Strut, first international tours, etc.
Q: You will be closing this year’s Ljubljana Jazz Festival, what can we expect to see on the stage.
Well, we’ll be playing a lot of new material, with some of our classic tunes, and a few reworkings of vintage Afro, Latin & Caribbean masterpieces. It’s our first time ever in Ljubljana, so we’ll be bringing it hard! Bring your dancing shoes!