Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Love Mowtown - Royal Festival Hall

FANS of Tamla Motown are in for a treat this weekend with a concert devoted to some of the best love songs from the iconic American record label.
Love Motown! will feature South London singer, songwriter and musician Noel McKoy at the Royal Festival Hall (RFH) performing a selection of the songs for one night only on Saturday, July 19.
The 52-year-old will be joined on stage by Southbank Centre's 200-voice Voicelab choir, singer Beverley Skeete, the Jazz Jamaica All Stars and Urban Soul Orchestra.
The concert will be a celebration of the great love songs from the extensive back catalogue of hits and among the highlights will be new arrangements of classics including Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On, The Jackson 5's I'll Be There, The Supremes’ Can't Hurry Love, The Commodores’ Easy and The Isley Brothers’ This Old Heart of Mine.
It has been put together by Jazz Jamaica’s founder and leader, Gary Crosby especially for Southbank Centre's Festival of Love.
And while Noel says he can't wait to be back on the RFH stage, he does admit to a few nerves.
"I have known Gary for quite a while and over the years I have guested with Jazz Jamaica so I was really pleased to be asked to do this gig," he says.
"I have done the Festival Hall before many times but not for a while so it will be great to be back although I am quite nervous," he adds.
"I've got good memories of performing there though. It's a great stage and you can connect with the audience really well. It's also got great sound and acoustics and I'm looking forward to it - it's going to be mega!"
And he says it's just the sort of music he loves to perform.
"You can tell a story with music and for me I think I express myself better with love songs. It's how you view love and how you feel it. Music definitely touches the soul and you feel love through it.
"I loved being in the James Taylor Quartet which was more acid jazz but I'm a ballard singer really. I love crooning," he laughs. "So this festival is right up my street!"
We chat as Noel is playing guitar and composing songs for a new album.
"Music is key for me - it's my life and my passion and I've always got lots of projects on the go.
"Over the past three months I've been busy in the studio doing stuff including for the new album but I've always been like this," he says warmly.
"I am writing a song for Kool and the Gang at the moment too. I supported them the year before last when they played in Brixton.
"And I'm obviously also thinking about the up coming gig and practising for that.
"It's very exciting," he adds. "We will be performing all the classic songs but with different arrangements. My favourite is Marvin Gaye's What's Going On but there are so many others I love - the Isley Brothers and Stevie Wonder - we will be playing them all.
"We've got a huge orchestra and choir so it will be quite something - I've certainly never done anything on this scale before and I'm sure it will be very moving."
That Noel's passion is music should not come as a surprise. Born and raised in Clapham and Battersea he was surrounded by various musical influences as he was growing up.
His mum and aunt were both singers and he learned to play several instruments at school where a discipline and strong work ethic was drilled into him.
He also spent much of his teenage years listening to a wide variety of music as well as working at recording studios.
"South London was an amazing place to be in the 1970s and really informed and influenced me and my music," he says.
"I grew up in Battersea and spent a lot of time in Brixton and there was all sorts of different but great music everywhere - from Bowie to T Rex, jazz to reggae and everything in between.
"Now I enjoy an array of musical styles - roots reggae, classical, lovers rock, blues, jazz, rock and soul...and everything else that's called music."
"But it was an amazing time and really set me on my path."
And what a path it's been. After he left school he formed bands such as the Albians, Impak and then McKoy with his sister and two brothers, before fronting the James Taylor Quartet in the 1990s.
He has also released numerous albums, is working on a film - in which he is also composing the score - and has worked with the likes of Juliet Roberts, Mica Paris, Beverley Knight and has even jammed with Stevie Wonder.
"One of my best memories was at the Rotterdam Jazz Festival playing for 30,000 people with James Turner Quartet. And jamming backstage with Stevie Wonder was a personal highlight!" he laughs.
"I'm very lucky," he adds. "I don't really consider this a job because it's something I love so much and get a great deal out of.
"I've done so many things and met so many amazing people. It's a blessing."

Love Motown is at Royal Festival Hall on Saturday July 19. Tickets from £17.50. Visit or call the box office on 0844 875 0073.

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