Soul music is the product of ever-developing social conditions and a variation of musical influences which started way back in the mid-1600s with the arrival of African slaves in North America, and as they toiled in the fields the slaves tried to lessen their misery by singing their traditional African folk songs. These folk songs changed form to become ‘African spirituals’ when the black workers started to convert to Christianity, but by the late 1800s spirituals had mostly been displaced by gospel songs.
Playa de las Americas - 12.02.2008
- Soul didn’t evolve until the early 1960s when artistes like Sam Cooke, Bobby Bland and Ray Charles began merging traditional gospel and R & B styles along with the Temptations who were possibly the most important soul group of the last half century. It is impossible to talk about the development of soul music since the early sixties without repeatedly coming back to them. In the sixties they redefined the soul group, from the impeccable look they brought to the stage, to their focus on group choreography to, most importantly, the immediately identifiable group harmony they mastered.
Keeping the style of music alive here in Tenerife are a number of American artistes who perform nightly from Thursdays to Sundays from 10pm until 4am at the spacious and sumptuous popular music venue Jazzissimo, next to the Tenerife Sol Hotel in Playa de las Américas. These talented singers have all travelled the world mesmerising ‘souls’ on their travels and have embodied all the unique traditions of black American popular music, gospel, jazz and blues, and brought them together to give the holidaymakers and residents on the island many of the great soul classics.
William Topaz hails from Memphis, Tennessee and his song sets are refreshingly mixed with a well balanced selection of showstoppers such as Barry White’s seventies hit My First, My Last, My Everything, after setting the ball rolling with You see, the trouble with me, Lovely Day, Sitting on the Dock of the Bay and Ray Charles’ Unchain my Heart. He is equally at home singing disco and rap music, proving that he can integrate several styles into his sets, through his flexible voice and presentation.
The man from Boston, Massachusetts, Phil Gibson, has been a popular figure on the island’s entertainment scene for a number of years, except for a five year break, when he travelled the world with the American Drifters Show. But Mr Cool is back with us at Jazzissimo, where each night he breezes through some great soul standards such as Me and Mrs Jones, Baby I need your loving, and How sweet it is (to be loved by you), with great panache and stage presence. Ronnie Canada, originally from Cleveland, Ohio, was also a member of the American Drifters along with Phil, and is also a regular at the venue, where he certainly includes a mixed bag of tricks in his act, including songs as diverse as Sam and Dave’s Soul Man and Nat King Cole’s Unforgettable. His soulful voice is ideally suited to numbers such as Ray Charles’ Georgia. He’s a fine showman and a performer with a wealth of experience.
Another very welcome addition to the line-up at Jazzissimo is Scotty D. from Atlanta, Georgia, who each night takes the customers on a magical musical trip full of soul and rhythm and blues, as he glides his way through a song set which includes such classics as Be young, be foolish, be happy, Bill Withers’ version of Lovely Day, and a very impressive version of Harold Melvin’s The love I lost. Scotty has a happy stage personality, excellent diction, quality of voice and completely sells himself, his songs and his whole act, which soon gets the audience in a dancing mood.
The venue is fortunate to have two of the finest musicians on the island in residency, in Alejandro Irigaray from Uruguay on electric guitar, who is also often featured playing some great music on the white grand piano on stage, and the excellent saxophonist Firmin from Tenerife, an impressive and fluent musician.
There may be much soul at Jazzissimo, but you get much, much more at the plush nighterie, for there’s no shortage of Motown, pop, jazz and dance standards to coax you onto the dance floor.
Give it a whirl – you won’t be disappointed!