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Tuesday, April 20, 2010



Three years ago I sat in a crowded Compton, CA church (Love and Unity) and witnessed one of the most incredible recordings I've ever heard. It was the Soul Seekers' live recording of their second album. The Soul Seekers are a Stellar-Award winning contemporary gospel "quartet" comprised of young men who all worked in the mainstream music industry in various capacities and decided to make music for God--together. The members are: Teddy Campbell, Warryn Campbell, Nisan Stewart, John "Jubu" Smith, Gerald Haddon, Charlie Bereal, Craig Brockman and Eric Seats. Their individual resumes boast work experience with a gamut of talent such as Beyonce‘ and Missy Elliott to Nelly, 50 Cent, Diddy, Jennifer Hudson, Whitney Houston, Bette Midler and Britney Spears to hit making shows Diddy’s “Making His Band” and “American Idol.”

Just one look at the pews and you knew they were not an ordinary quartet group. Among church folk of all ages, celebrities such as Coko from SWV, Musiq and Rodney Jerkins (to name a few) were in attendance. (It's doubtful that a Canton Spirituals or Mighty Clouds of Joy concert would attract the same people, in part because these artists are the Soul Seekers peers.)

Between tongue-talking praise breaks and revolving ovations, these gentlemen displayed the graceful moves of the Five Heartbeats, the sleek attire of P Diddy, Winans-like vocals and musical savoir faire beyond compare. Then, after months of anticipation, the album release was planned forward.

I didn't mind waiting. From the moment I heard their self-titled debut album I became an immortal Soul Seekers fan. They are distinguished by the fact that everyone in the group is capable of producing and singing music as well as playing an instrument. And they sound like they have been singing and playing together all their lives.

The Soul Seekers' molded the customary toe-tapping 2/4 count that defined most traditional quartet songs into intricate rhythmns, which meshed with their organic gospel quartet vocals perfectly. A prime example of this blend of the old and new is their song "I'll Take Jesus." Often when I rolled down the streets of L.A. with my music blasting, that cut was incessantly on repeat. If there was a "B" side with instrumental only I'd listen to that as much as the tracks with vocals. That's what I like about the Soul Seekers: they make quartet music that is current, music for this generation, music that draws me just as much as the singing.

So today, after seeing pics from their photo shoot weeks ago on Facebook and hearing dolloped details about the project over the last several months, with pleasure, I can confirm THE SOULSEEKERS ARE BAAAAACK!

It's been a long time coming, but the first single from that highly anticipated project, SS2 has been released on My Block Records. Titled, "It's All God" Pastor Marvin Winans guests on the song, which speaks of how blessed it is to have a God who supplies our needs.


My full review and re-cap are forthcoming.
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Anita Baker will be a headliner at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on April 25th, and has just started work on a new album in Nashville, planned for release by Blue Note Records later in 2010.

"I'm going to Nashville to mix it up, shake it and see what comes out" says the eight-time Grammy winner with obvious glee.

Baker will be producing the album with George Duke, Nathan East and Daniel Moore, recording in Nashville in part because, she explains, "they still know how to make a record in analog." Baker has some long time friends in Nashville - just last month, when she performed at the TJ Martell Honors Gala there, attendees were surprised to find out that she counts many country stars and personalities among them.

Singing Vince Gill's "Little Liza Jane" at the dinner, Baker was backed by a cohort of Nashville players. Inspired by their performance, she's invited the "badass Nashville cats," as she terms them, to record with her this month alongside NYC and LA session musicians.

The album will also include Baker's collaboration with Snoop Dogg on a "big, lush" version of Curtis Mayfield's "Give You My Love" that she promises "is going to raise eyebrows." The rest of the album will be original material.

Baker is enthusiastic about the upcoming sessions. "I'm turning it up in a lot of ways," she says

Over 75,000 fans enjoyed her 2009 headlining performances at the Essence Festival (New Orleans), Macy's Music Cincinnati and Mt. Diablo Festival in San Francisco, and now they will have the chance to see Anita Baker mix it up live at 5:25 p.m. on Sunday April 25th on JazzFest's Congo Square "My Louisiana" Stage. And what will Ms. Baker play at Jazzfest? "As always, the audience is in charge of the set list, kind of like being at a Grateful Dead show" the star says with a laugh.
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