Catch a Fire at the Guildhall is set to pay tribute to the legendary music of Bob Marley and the Wailers, whilst celebrating 50 years of Jamaican independence, on Friday 12 October.
Part of the the Lively Up! festival, which is touring 50 musicians and dancers to ten UK cities, honouring several reggae icons including Joe Harriott and Louise ‘Miss Lou’ Bennett, will stop off at Southampton in October.
Bob Marley’s 1973 Catch a Fire album, acclaimed as one of the greatest reggae albums of all time, will be re-interpreted by three acts: Jazz Jamaica All Stars, Urban Soul Orchestra , and guest vocalist Brinsley Forde – who was previously part of band Aswad and has performed with Dizzee Rascal on Can’t Tek No More.
I spoke to Stephen Hussey from Urban Soul Orchestra about the upcoming concert.
Who makes up USO? How long have you been performing?
The Urban Soul Orchestra (USO) is made up of a core of about 40 handpicked like-minded musicians who work together regularly on a variety of projects including recording sessions, tours, gigs, high profile parties and international events. I started the orchestra about 18 years ago, initially focusing on studio work, and supplying top music industry artists with the best backing orchestra in the business. Artists we’ve worked for include Kylie, Madonna, Grace Jones, Groove Armada, Mick Jagger, Robert Miles, Maxi Priest and more recently Leona Lewis, Keane and The Script. Lately we’ve been flat out responding to market demand for our very unique party sets.
Have you ever worked with Jazz Jamaica All Stars or Brinsley Forde (from Aswad) before?
Aswad were one of my favourite bands, I followed them closely and was deeply influenced by their music in my youth – I still love listening to them. I am very excited about working with Brinsley Forde. I worked with Gary Crosby (Jazz Jamaica founder & bass player) for a few years a while ago…I was at the Guildhall School of Music at the same time as many of the original Jazz Warriors (Cleveland Watkiss, Philip Bent, Rowland Sutherland, Steve Williamson, etc) and enjoyed going to their early gigs and watching Courtney Pine emerge…Some of the musicians in the Jazz Jamaica All Stars also perform as part of our own USO Big Band and Swing Band, including Kevin Robinson (trumpet) and Harry Brown (trombone).
You cover a lot of chart hits, is it an intentional thing to mix the traditional expectation of an orchestra with modern music?
USO is not a traditional orchestra. We play ‘traditional’ string instruments, however the music scene in the UK has come a very long way since using violins in pop/soul/jazz/dance music as a surprise or gimmick. Strings are part of the palette of sounds that we work with, alongside the rest of the band (vocals, rhythm section & horns). Furthermore, strings have their own unique beauty and strength. We apply that to whatever music we happen to be working on, it just so happens that there is currently a high demand for us to play chart hits and classics. We do it our way and love it – as do our audiences.
Have you ever performed a Bob Marley or reggae song before?
Yes – many times. When I left the Guildhall School of Music, I joined the Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra – it was a reggae band with strings…We recorded an album of Marley Classics and it featured Courtney Pine & the I-Threes (Bob Marley’s backing singers). When we toured Jamaica, we performed with the I-Threes in a concert marking the 10th Anniversary of Bob Marley’s death. That was unforgettable. We regularly include my arrangements of several Marley songs in USO sets including ‘Sun is Shining’, ‘No Woman, No Cry’ and ‘Who the Cap Fits’.
Will this be your first time performing in Southampton?
I personally performed in Southampton with the Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra many years ago… One of our key vocalists, Roo Savill, is from there and hopefully will be coming along to see us play. USO is invited to play internationally all the time. In recent years we’ve performed in France, Norway, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Italy, Holland and Belgium (the latter in collaboration with the London Community Gospel Choir).
What can we expect from the Catch a Fire concert?
Amazing musicianship, deep arrangements, exciting performances and a unique interpretation of an iconic album by an exceptional group of extraordinary talent.
Student tickets for Catch a Fire can be bought for £11 here.