Ipswich: It’s back to life on the road for Corn Exchange-bound Jazzie B and Soul II Soul
- Credit: Archant
Soul II Soul’s Jazzie B has a bit of an exclusive when I call in the middle of rehearsals for their latest tour.
“Caron (Wheeler, flying in from the USA especially) is part of the live band and always has been. My exclusive to you is we’ll be doing some of her songs, that’s what we’re rehearsing now,” says the producer, vocalist and songwriter.
The dance and RnB pioneers bring their Philly soul, disco, reggae and 1980s hip-hop inspired sound to the Ipswich Corn Exchange on Saturday, December 7. If you’re going, get ready to dance warns Jazzie.
“We try to make it like a party... the way we try to do it is like how we’d do our normal gigs, with the DJs playing. Everyone gets a bit loose, gets familiar with the tunes, then the band forms at the climax of the evening and plays.”
As each leg rolls round, the collective change things up so if you’re an ardent follower there’s something to follow, he laughs.
They’ve a huge repertoire so add a little bit of a hit here, there and everywhere. Not one for medleys, Jazzie would rather do short songs so they can pack in more tunes people are familiar with.
Picking songs makes for an interesting headache; luckily Soul II Soul’s fans are happy to help.
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“Sometimes people have written us (saying) ‘it’d be nice to hear this... nice to hear that’, so I try because Soul II Soul are inclusive; the audience are as important as what’s going on on the main stage. That’s always been our ethos, rather than trying to give them something most of the time they don’t want.
“For me that’s really important from a fan point of view. I’ve taken that stance because I’m an ardent fan as well, I go out and buy music every week, there’ll be bands I want to listen do... I like to put myself in that position.”
Soul II Soul, originally featuring Jazzie B, producer-arranger Nellee Hooper and instrumentalist Philip “Daddae” Harvey, came together in the late 1980s. A residency at the Africa Centre in London’s Covent Garden led to a record contract with Virgin subsidiary 10 and singles Fairplay and Feel Free began to attract attention in clubs and the press.
Featuring Wheeler’s vocals, their third single Keep on Movin reached the UK Top 10, as did Back to Life. Their debut album, Club Classics, Vol. 1, soon after hit number one in the UK and USA charts. They had a massive impact on the dance and RnB scene; being pioneers was never part of the plan though.
“No, no, not really. I think it’s more the fact that mainstream bought into us, what we were doing, rather than us trying to do something that they wanted. This is something we’ve always done; we’re a collective and it’s always been more about a way of life for us,” says Jazzie.
Looking to the future, anything’s possible, he laughs, on the topic of a new album. They’re talking about doing bits and pieces but don’t want to do anything too conventional.
“Watch this space; there are interesting things happening among us and we’re just trying to find the best way of going about it and delivering it. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel but at the same time we’re not trying to duplicate what’s gone on before either.
“The biggest problem is if you think about it like the fans rather than getting on with what you do best, when you try to second guess the public, that’s really the crunch thing, I think that’s when it all starts sort of falling apart.
“Obviously record companies have a formula (too). I guess that’s one of the beauties again about Soul II Soul we don’t exactly fit the criteria, we’re always been between the cracks - that’s the difference of what we do compared to a conventional band. Like the record says we try,” he laughs.
Expect a happy face and a thumping bass for a loving race when they come to town.