Friday 12 September 2014

My Funky (In)Disposition Make Believe MashUP Series [No.05]

We’ve talked a lot about Nicola Conte recently – his name deserves to be mentioned a lot in any circumstances but with the release of his new album, ‘Free Souls’, Conte’s inimitable blend of bossa-infused jazz is as apt an accompaniment for the summer as the sunshine itself.

‘Free Souls’ marks Conte’s fifth studio release, excluding his compilation series, ‘Viagem’ and his remix albums, ‘Jet Sounds Revisited’ and ‘Modern Sound of Nicola Conte’.  Focusing on the latter though, the two-disc opus ‘MSONC’, is another project to demonstrate the Italian guitarist’s ability to produce for a whole range of artists including The Five Corners Quintet, Mark Murphy and [re:jazz], naming a select few.  As far as vocalists go too, his appreciation for soul and jazz voices is beyond demonstrable when assessing his album’s past contributions from both heavy-hitters and up-and-comers like Jose James, Gregory Porter, Melanie Charles, Nailah Porter, Bridgette Amofah, etc.  [This feature aside, fans are doing themselves a disservice by not exploring Conte’s catalogue further so I urge you to do so.]

Maxwell, following the release of ‘Urban Hang Suite’ in 1996, had already become a premier soul artist for his generation in the way Marvin Gaye was to his.  Subsequent releases were equally cherished and appreciated by fans but, in truth, that album etched his name into soul music stone and secured him an ever-loyal fanbase that some artists would need four or five albums to garner.  ‘Ascension’, ‘Sumthin Sumthin’, ‘…Til the Cops Come Knockin’, all still classic records even by today’s standards, and we haven’t even moved on to discuss songs like ‘Downdeep Hula’, ‘Get to Know Ya’ or ‘Love You’.  Famed for the overgrown afro, unparalleled coolness, silky smooth voice, Maxwell really is in a class all of his own.

As far as collaborations go, he’s certainly been no stranger to the idea even though he tends to handle the majority of his own production on his albums.  Stuart Matthewman, from Sade, an inspired choice, has served as a long-time collaborator, and with his most recent album ‘BLACKsummer’snight’, Chris Dave and Saunders Sermons were recruited to the team, as was Robert Glasper as part of his touring band.

Could it happen?
By no means impossible at all actually.  If there’s one thing Nicola Conte seems to have an appreciation for, it’s an elegant and soulful voice layered over his equally sublime production, and frankly, who better is there?!  Conte’s contributors do tend to fly a little further under the radar than the platinum-seller and Grammy winner that is Maxwell but it’s not to say that it couldn’t happen for a song or two on a Conte release, as in honesty, I don’t see anything full-length imminent from the two, or even see Conte recruited for a Maxwell album which is a shame.

What would be of particular interest though is hearing Conte helm the rains on a full-blown soul release which he’s yet to do.  ‘Love and Revolution’ was the closest he’s come but I think there’s more gold for him to mine for, and Maxwell would be a perfect conduit and collaborator.

To further the cause however, here’s two somewhat like-minded songs from each, hopefully exemplifying where the magic in their musical union would be.  Exhibit A, ‘Do You Feel Like I Feel’ by Nicola Conte featuring Gregory Porter...

...and Exhibit B, ‘Get to Know Ya’ by Maxwell.

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