In 1967, the late American soul singer Arthur Conley famously sang: "Do you like good music? That sweet soul music." Throughout the song, aptly titled "Sweet Soul Music," Conley pays homage to the who's who of soul singers from his generation. Spotlight on Lou Rawls, ya'll; Sam & Dave; Wilson Pickett; my personal favourite, Otis Redding; and of course, "the king of them all," James Brown. Which got me to thinking... what would a modern day "Sweet Soul Music" look like? To whom would such a song give "props"?
Perhaps it's my lack of expertise in the modern soul scene, but the names of current soul singers don't pop into my mind the way that countless past legends do. Raphael Saadiq is a young man who's smooth-as-butter vocal talent echoes those of past greats. I might include Mary J. Blige on that list, although I think she would be more accurately lumped into the "R&B/pop" category. But the other night, as I received my first ever taste of what the Toronto Jazz Festival has to offer, I found my modern soul queen at Nathan Phillips Square. Her name is Sharon Jones, and her formidable backing band is known as the Dap-Kings.
Good God! Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings put on a tremendous show. Unfortunately, I arrived late to the ball and only caught the last 4 or 5 songs, but that was more than enough to blow my socks off. Not one person in the tent wasn't dancing their hearts out. The music was so swingin' one really didn't have much of a choice. I received first-hand accounts that things got so raucous earlier in the set that audience members were called onto the stage to shake their groove thing with the 53-year old, booty-bumping Jones herself. If you get the chance, SEE THIS WOMAN! But until then, enjoy the small fraction of her live soul/funk energy that is captured in her studio work. The title track off of her 2007 album, "100 Days, 100 Nights," should whet your appetite.
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings' next Canadian date is July 16th at the Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest.