Billboard chart-topping vocalist and songwriter Helen Rogers of Jazzmasters fame is set for a strong return with the potent Smooth Jazz Meets Reggae (Skinny Bwoy Records). The 10-song set (plus two CD-only bonus tracks), features original songwriting and production, as well as compelling reggae covers of “Don’t Know Why” (Norah Jones), “Be Thankful For What You Got” (William DeVaughn) and the reggae classic “Still In Love With You Boy” (Alton Ellis).
Producers for the album includes Quicktouch (Henry “Sadiki” Buckley Jr. and Marvin Weatherspoon (Keyboardist for The Chi-Lites), reggae’s Paul “Computer Paul” Henton (Akon, Shaggy), Lloyd Mullings (DJ Warm n Easy) and Nathan Monlux (Coalition).
Smooth Jazz Meets Reggae is an album embodying two distinct styles. Creating an album such as this, without the watering down of either style, is seldom an easy task. “Sadiki and I both had exactly the same concept at the outset for the structure of the songs on the album – the smooth jazz songs should be one hundred percent smooth jazz and the reggae songs should be a hundred percent reggae. They are two distinctly different ‘feels’ and we both felt strongly that’s the way it should be,” says Helen.
With main producer Sadiki residing in the US and Helen living in the UK, Smooth Jazz Meets Reggae is truly an album made possible by technology. “I received the musical backing ideas from Sadiki, spent some time writing in solitude and then recorded the demos at my home studio with my husband Simon at the engineering controls,” says Helen. “The demos were sent back to Sadiki for feedback with both of us really wanting the songs to be the best they can be,” she continues. “Sadiki as my producer was an incredibly positive influence throughout, completely understanding where I was coming from with each song and knowing when to say “that’s great just as it is” or when to add lyrical, melodic or phrasing content and ideas.
Helen believes both her fan bases will appreciate Smooth Jazz Meets Reggae. “At the end of the day music is music and there is no reason why people can’t enjoy different styles,” she says. “In fact, I’ve had so many lovely messages from the really cool, loyal and supportive smooth jazz fans telling me that although they weren’t usually into reggae they really liked my new music and vice versa,” she continues. “Of course a lot of the fans already enjoy both genres too.”
Born in Rinteln, West Germany to Irish/Scots, Helen cites her Mum and R&B Queen, Aretha Franklin as her first musical influences. “My Mum had a really beautiful voice and would sing me to sleep as a baby… all the Jazz classics,” she says. “I first felt the emotional power of a vocalist via Aretha Franklin,” she remembers. “The pain of ‘Til You Come Back to Me’ direct from Aretha’s soul to my 9 year old heart, was captivating.”
Rogers – born Helen Clark, began her singing career in London in the 80’s, firstly with One Stop a South London reggae label, where she met and recorded with reggae legend Ken Parker and worked with lovers rock band Natural Touch. She went on to become lead singer of the #1 Brit Funk band Direct Drive, and was signed to Polydor Records in this capacity. They had a massive hit with their song ‘Anything’ which remained at #1 on the Black Echoes Soul chart for 8 weeks then crossed over to the UK National Chart.
Helen’s foray into the US market came through her work on Jazzmasters, the smooth jazz album series she co-founded with producer and multi-instrumentalist Paul Hardcastle. Throughout the 90’s the Jazzmasters series entered Billboard’s Smooth Jazz charts numerous times with several entries peaking at the #1 position. “My time working with Paul Hardcastle was really special to me,” she says. “We had met whilst both working with UK Jazz Funk band Direct Drive and following the band’s break up we worked together on and off over the years,” she continues. “What an incredible experience it was to write and record five Jazzmasters albums with an artist, composer and producer like Paul.”
With the first single, “In The Light” already gaining strong radio attention in the US and the UK, Helen will be promoting Smooth Jazz Meets Reggae with a radio promotional campaign while working on tour dates for 2016.
“If I could sum up Smooth Jazz Meets Reggae in a few words, I’d say – inspirational, relaxing, positive – smooth and chilled out vibes for peace,” says Helen.
Smooth Jazz Meets Reggae is scheduled for worldwide release on November 6th, 2015 via Skinny Bwoy Records.