Jade Danielle Williams (aka Jade Like The Stone) was born into a Welsh/Italian family and raised in the one time Welsh Capital, Merthyr Tydfil, in South Wales. Blessed with a special voice, she was a finalist in the national Eisteddfod at 15 and a career in Opera beckoned until the tragic death of her brother led to re-evaluating her life plans and aspirations.
Jade’s influences range from Debussy, the harmonies and tonal qualities of the Renaissance; opera, folk; and of course a whole pot-pourri of rock including The Doors, The Beatles and Neil Young, Jill Scott, Massive Attack and Modest Mouse to name but a few.
Moving to London, Jade slowly reunited with music, forming the post-modern rock band Du Bellows, a band described by Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page as “by far one of the most interesting and musically adept bands I have seen”.
Du Bellows produced two EPs which featured Jade as lead singer fronting a powerful, spiky, post-rock sound woven around mystical tales that have more than a hint of Celtic mysticism. I was fortunate enough to see them live in 2019 when supporting Son of Man, one of the best musical surprises ever!
As well as undertaking sessions for other producers and artists, in 2018 Jade even – albeit semi-seriously – accepted an invitation to appear on TV’s ‘The Voice’ where she gained a place, appropriately enough, on the team of legendary Welsh singer Tom Jones.
Jade’s desire to make music on her own terms as a solo artist has then led to her teaming up with noted international collective ‘Redtenbacher’s Funkestra’ (the London based, multi-national brainchild of bassist, composer and producer Stefan Redtenbacher and house band at Masterlink studios with a CV which reads like a ‘who’s who’ in music) to produce a collaborative debut album.
‘Seven Roads‘ was released recently, it’s a little bit different, being such a conscious and deliberate collaboration with the Funkestra. Several of the “Seven” songs are co-written by Jade and one or more of the Funkestra, a seemingly true meeting of musical minds!
The Funkestra comprise a quartet of heavily CV’d musicians – guitarist Tony Remy (Herbie Hancock, Jack Bruce, Annie Lennox), Hammond maestro Joe Glossop (Tom Jones, Van Morrison), bassist/bandleader Stefan Redtenbacher (Joss Stone, Beverley Knight), and drummer Mike Sturgis (David Bowie, Elton John). Ross Stanley (Alfie Boe) replaces Joe on two tracks (Fire In The Blood and Blackbirds).
They are an original and mostly instrumental Jazz Funk collective of world class players who have recorded with the ‘who’s who’ from the international Jazz Funk and Fusion scene – including legends like Fred Wesley; Alfred ‘Pee Wee’ Ellis from James Brown; Stephen ‘Doc’ Kupka, Lee Thornburg and Lenny Pickett (Tower of Power); Cory Wong (Vulfpeck); Eric Krazno (Lettuce); Stanton Moore (Galactic); drum virtuoso Benny Greb; Elliott Randall and Keith Carlock (Steely Dan); titanic saxophone players Rick Margitza (Miles Davis Band)……..the list just goes on and on!
In the last 5 years they have clocked up an impressive 2 million plus (and rising) streams on Spotify alone. Over the past two years the Funkestra rhythm section has also served as the studio house band for ‘The Masterlink Sessions’. They are now the studio/production house of choice for very many respected artists at the elite end of the music business, evolving into a highly respected mini-Nashville production house in the Surrey Hills, UK.
The Masterlink Sessions are a joint venture of Stefan Redtenbacher, James Welch (Masterlink Productions) and Leo Mansell (Shoot And Splice Films) to strengthen the community of creative and like-minded musicians who love music with timeless values, played live and for real. Which brings us nicely to the music itself.
Jade says: ‘This album has been a collaboration of creative worlds that delivers a blend of sounds and influences into a collection of songs recorded 100% live at Masterlink Studios.. Each song marks a different thought/passage/experience/route that is taken throughout a lifetime, leading to several viewpoints of loss, love, mystery, surrender and the full spectrum that is the human experience. It was exhilarating to work with Stefan and the incredible musicians that made the energy and the journey of each track so vivid and expressive.’
The album lives up to its title! – there are seven (and a bit) tracks, opening with Blackbirds, a sumptuously Hammond – soaked intro leading into a slow, bluesy, tale giving the perfect platform for Jade’s uniquely sonorous voice, by turns deep, poignant, quavering, soaring, always Welsh-inflected, totally mesmerising! There are some wonderful “new” women lead singers out there at the moment, and I’d bracket Jade with Lee-La Baum from The Damn Truth; Swedish retro-rockers Heavy Feathers’ Lisa Lystam; and Grace Bond of When Rivers Meet – all four have total command of such a wide range of emotions, moods, strengths – as good as anyone you’ve ever heard!
Next Up is Fire In The Blood, a funky, fiery number which again showcases Jade effortlessly switching from soft and gentle to stridently proclaiming and back again. Happiness is the third number, a slower, sad song featuring just Jade and piano to start with, an understated rhythm section softly creeping in before some exquisite guitar licks from Tony Remy. Utterly classy, totally soulful.
Lightning continues the soulful, understated, sparse but tasty style, Jade’s voice soaring around and around the room, the studio, my head….! This track showcases what is a supremely crisp, clear mix and sound production – hats off to all concerned! Still bluesy, Jade’s powerful vocals are perfectly matched with more gorgeous guitar work, always underpinned by the Hammond and this top-notch bass and drums pair. Although slow it builds and builds, it’s excellent stuff!
Stars Fall Out The Sky is next, it’s the current single and the only non-original song, a re-imagining of a song recorded by Jade as guest vocalist with the Soul Reality Collective. I’m not sure who the original writer for this was, but it’s a good’un!
Oceans of Words continues this beefier blues-rock approach to the arrangement – and is all the better for it (see video). The band are clearly loving it , the Hammond does its thing, there’s a great bubbling riff and rhythm underpinning the vocals as Jade holds court, then another lovely solo from Tony to round things off. It’s great stuff!
Heavy does what it says on the tin – comes in with a chunky riff, Jade struts her stuff, this is the most out-and-out rock track on the album and, for me, is the strongest. Straight out of the 70’s maybe, hints of Elkie Brooks and Vinegar Joe, it’s brilliant! Ends all too quickly!
Thunder (reprise) signs off as a brief 90 seconds heavy retro revisit of an earlier song, swirling guitar, echoey vocals, swooshing organ – the final trio of tracks show this is a collective ensemble that can really rock when it wants to, and I do prefer this heavier side of both Jade and the band! My personal view is that some of the middle section of the song-set teeters on the edge of “lounge lizard music”, and I miss the mystical spikiness of Du Bellows – I do hope that Jade hasn’t left them behind in her bid for fame?
This takes nothing away from the Funkestra: Great musicians, great sense of supportive teamwork, great production team…coupled to Jade’s superlative voice!
For those lucky enough to be able to catch her, Jade has a few dates lined for in the near future as shown below: