Jocelyn B.Smith - "Back to Soul at last"
After excursions into the world of Gershwin and Weill, doing music of Miki Theodorakis and recording a Christmas-album, Jocelyn B. Smith finally returns to what her fans love her for: Soul-Jazz that comes directly from the heart. With "Back to Soul" the Afro-American singer from New York finally presents her eagerly awaited new album - and makes a dream come true for a lot of her fans.
It is an album leavened by soulful faith and hope that promise to lend the listener a hand on the road to a more human world. But "Back to Soul" also means funky, energetic and lively music - carried by Jocelyn's mature, clear and powerful voice. Jocelyn's mission has always been nothing less than to give directions - not with political, but with humanly ambition: like when she sang a heartbreaking version of "Amazing Grace" as a remembrance for the 9-11 in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin ...
Carina: It seems as if your lyrics are more intimate, more personal than ever before. Does this just happen - or is it something you'd call a conscious development?
Jocelyn: I would explain this as something that naturally can happen, when one is open for this conscious development. It's a maturity, it's just a phase when you allow yourself to live life at a deeper level - a conscious development. Then there is just more information that's given to you - there is more information that's exposed to you and there is definitely more that you can learn from.
Jocelyn B.Smith - "Back To Soul"
So, with feeling all of this and understanding all of that, I tried to place it in a source that could be sensible for other people. Of course my outlet is music and words and art. So I really try to set all of this experience in a verbal form. And then also - being a mother of two children - that definitely opens up the eyes, very radically!
Carina: The "healing force of music" trumpeter Chris Botti referred to concerning the "9-11" - what can music put up against violence? Is it necessary for an artist to position himself politically?
Jocelyn: I think, when you as an artist really know what you are talking about, then go ahead and have something to say! Politics has always been a sensitive area. Not being a "specialist" in this area, I have chosen to deal politically different. I have issues and I definitely have themes and points that I like to be clear on, but I found that my strength would be in supporting human beings, supporting individuals to come to a point where they are stronger in theirselves - that they can deal with their political situations.
Meaning: wherever you're living, whatever culture, whatever environment you're in, that I felt the way I had constructed my thoughts and my words, would give people a confidence and give them a courage to find and strengthen their identities. That they can take a stronger, more convinced step. So, if I could support the theme "Stronger sense of self", then I felt that this is my way to help for healing. Or maybe it gives another person courage to stand up and say: "listen, you know, we need to represent the human ways or we need to be like this for human kind." So, I am giving food for thought, it's like food to make people stronger.
Carina: Henning Schmiedt did your musical arrangements for many years. Now your guitarist Eric St-Laurent is also featured as co-arranger. Both are also listed as producers. How much influence on your music do these musicians have?
Jocelyn: Quite a lot - one thing: Henning and I share very special relationship, because he is a very spiritual person. He works with really a lot of people outside of the German culture, so his exposure is very big. He's been touched by music of the oriental areas of music, he's been in the east, knows Bulgarian, Russian, Chechoslovakian, the Slavic. These elements he brings in as a very strong, creative quality when we put this together. The result of the elements that he has, so he not only offers you just a regular classical or jazz element.
Eric - we're are just coming together now in this relationship, you know, him speaking English. Well, actually he is Canadian and speaking French. He has worked in the States for many years and has been with countless African-American musicians. There is something that's already familiar. So that means that his exposure is quite not only jazz and blues - he works with a lot of young musicians. So he is into freshness, too.
Carina: You are a great singer and artist and you are successful for almost two decades now. How did being a woman and being black as factors work out on your way? Did or do they have an influence on your career and your position in the musical sector?
Jocelyn: Absolutely, through the course of world history, it has always been very difficult for the African, the African-American man, the black man to have his position. He has had to work doubly as hard and sometime shut down even more, not necessarily to shut down with a gun, but shut down in culture, shut down in the social system, shut down in how politically one would run interests of what they term - not necessarily meaning - but what they term minority.
And throughout history the black woman was always accepted - this was a burden also in itself, because she was taken before her man. Which meant that she had even more of a responsibility, more that she carried on her back - to take care with the family, to continue having respect for herself and her man. This was not a very easy balance at all, for generations. In the slavery times the woman was very strong. She was taken before her man - but at the same time she was abused physically and sexually. And this has left a mark over the years.
I am not saying that we are dealing with pain right now, but when we are looking at these things: some of it has not changed, the black woman has always been seen as something very exotic. And more so, when she was in the entertainment-business. You had women like Dionne Warwick, Diana Ross - or nowadays Janet Jackson, Queen Latifa and the producer Missy Elliot. These types of women, they have opened up doors, really big doors in our industry. And thank goodness that they have managed to keep the respect in the industry.
Very often, I found it a pain, when the door was opened for an African-American artist who has been able to cross over and have "European pull" - success in the European market. And than the rest of the personality did not tune in with the success. To be able to have a door open, is amazing anyway, and I am even more for it, when it is an African-American that is just so popular.
So - in achieving the situation, I know also the responsibility of having that situation: I am opening up the doors for other black American, African-American artists, other black artists. And, in having that position, one walks with a lot of courage, one walks with a lot of humility and one walks with a lot of self-respect; And then, for others. It´s not an easy position, it's a very delicate position, but it's a beautiful position, because you know, that you are helping other people.
Jocelyn B. Smith in the Internet: www.jocelyn.de
New CD: Jocelyn B. Smith - "Back to Soul" (JBS 610)
Fotos: Jim Rakete (courtesy of Uwe Kerkau Promotions)