Exclusive: Soul II Soul’s Jazzie B looks forward to gig at Ipswich’s Christchurch Park
Music-lovers are spoilt for choice this weekend. As well as playing host to Andre on Sunday, Christchurch Park welcomes the Club Classics Concert on Saturday; featuring Billy Ocean, Jocelyn Brown, the Gibson Brothers and Soul II Soul.
Co-founder of the latter, Jazzie B, says the audience can expect a happy face and a thumping base for a loving race.
“We’ll be playing songs from Club Classics Volume one, two, three and seven,” he says before teasing me about a few surprises in store.
“There’s not a lot that can beat an open air type of gig, the sense of infinity and the ambience; that’s a hell of a way to enjoy a live gig or a band. Equally so, from a production point of view you’re relying on the weather and the set-up. Indoor gigs you get to use a lot of props and production.”
He’s still getting used to seeing thousands stretching out as far as the eye can see at shows.
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“I think I’ve got one of the best jobs in the world; I’m actually eager to wake up every day and do something that I love and enjoy and be rewarded both economically and emotionally. The fact you’re playing music from more than 20 years ago that sounds like it was just yesterday – I mean, I’ve won the lottery, haven’t I?”
North London born Jazzie, aka Beresford Romeo, co-founded the Soul II Soul sound system in 1982 along with school friend Philip “Daddae” Harvey.
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Although he’d worked as a sound engineer, the training which built the SIIS hits came from Jazzie’s work as a DJ at street parties, on illegal radio stations and in London clubs.
Aware there was more to life than just playing, he knew he had something special and a sound to be carried to more than just a room full of people.
After signing to Virgin Records the plan went to the next stage and saw the birth of the recording group SIIS which went on to become the club and chart success of the 80s, achieving worldwide acclaim with hits like Keep on Movin’, Back to Life and Get A Life.
“I was brave in 1988 to call the album Club Classics Vol one; I think the rest is history really,” he laughs.
“I guess somewhere along the line I had an expectation of the music being around and it’s kind of nice it’s been received that way as well, so I put that down to a lot of luck really.”
As if to prove his point, Beverley Knight recently scored major success with her cover of their first single Fairplay.
“It reflects, I suppose, the organisation of Soul II Soul; that you can have one of your tracks covered that is synonymous with the UK scene in its embryonic stages and hear some 23-24 years later it surface again like that from a UK artist. It’s quite flattering.”
Not, however, in all cases.
“Being a DJ, I play it [our music] everywhere, I’ve done funerals, weddings. It gets played everywhere and the greatest thing about music is that it transcends any pain or scenario. The weirdest thing I’ve heard is being in Singapore in a lift and hearing a quartet’s version of Keep on Moving.”
Now an entrepreneur, DJ, music producer and with his clothing line, Jazzie says it’s good to still be actively involved in the group. “Some of us have put on a bit of weight and some of us have got a bit greyer, but, yeah, rock and roll as they say. Soul II Soul is a collective, it’s not really a band it’s more just a way of life.”
Joining them, as always, will be two-time Grammy Award winning British R&B and soul singer Caron Wheeler, who gained fame by writing and singing the lead vocals on Keep on Movin and Back to Life (However Do You Want Me).
She’s also served as a backing vocalist for other major artists, had a successful solo career and returning to the studio with Jazzie; recording tracks for a new Soul II Soul album for release this year.