New York-based Allan Harris and Paris-based China Moses have both made vocal contributions to the new Alex Webb & The Copasetics album ‘Call Me Lucky’. Webb talked to the two singers about their shared fascination with songwriting, and their own future projects in the UK and beyond:
Working with Allan Harris and China Moses, I was curious about what they look for in the songs they sing. "I want the lyrics to tell a story that I can relate to, and I want there to be a groove," says Harris. "The best songwriters go and write for the West End or Broadway but jazz and soul still need great lyricists," offers Moses. "I look for humour, wordplay and storylines, someone who knows how to make the words ring and sing well."
Harris, who sings the up-beat Enough on my new album, says, "I feel I was able to bring some old-school swing to the album. I hope you can feel that when you listen to it. Alex, I think you write in a classic sense for jazz, and I like your knowledge of history - you know the standards intimately, and bring a certain respect for the tradition to the music you write."
The tracks I offered Moses have a different flavour. "Bad Girls is quite theatrical. It could be from a musical, I wanted to showcase that. Ain't Nothing But A Blues is a song that you helped me get off the ground lyrically. It was from a session for my Crazy Blues record, but I felt I wasn't up to par vocally – now a few years later I think we nailed it. When we work together it seems so simple, and to make things sound simple in music is no easy task!"
I met Allan Harris at his first Pizza Express show in London. He told me: "I remember our first conversation – I found your knowledge of Billy Strayhorn very intriguing. When you approached me to see if I would be interested in singing in your ‘Cafe Society Swing’ show, I loved the idea. That show was a big hit in New York."
Strayhorn and Cafe Society were also what brought China Moses and I together: "I remember us working together on the shows," she said. "You invited me to open for my mother (Dee Dee Bridgewater) at the Barbican when you still worked there. My mother even asked you one night to watch over me and I can truly say you are my British guardian angel. I love the projects we create together."
Harris will be back in the UK this year: "I'll be doing 10 days at the London Jazz Festival in November, performing at venues all over London." China Moses also expects to be back here this autumn, thanks to a new relationship with the AIR agency here.
Both artists are also working on their next releases. "My next recording will be released late September early October 2016," says Harris. "We do not yet have a title, but that usually comes when we are listening back during the mix. I am working with Gregory Porter's producer again, Brian Bacchus. I trust him and I really dig his sense of swing and groove. My band features a fantastic female drummer by the name of Shirazette Tinnin, and one of the great young bassists to come out of Juilliard this year, Russell Hall."
Moses, who recently released a digital EP, Whatever, will be following it with an album soon. The new recordings represent something of a change of direction. "I recorded in London with great British musicians from the soul jazz scene: Luke Smith, Jerry Brown and ‘Level’ Neville Malcolm, produced by Anthony Marshall. It’s all original compositions that Anthony and I created together, a departure from the standards – I felt it was time." (pp)
Call Me Lucky by Alex Webb & The Copasetics (Splash Point Records) will be released on 3rd June.
Whatever by China Moses is available through iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, etc. and at chinamoses.com
Allan Harris is inviting crowdfunding contributions to his next album at allanharris.com