Rhythm Nation: Camilla George

Rhythm Nation: Camilla George
The saxophonist counts Wayne Shorter, Wynton Marsalis and Michael Brecker among her artistic inspirations

When Lisa Simpson became a saxophone player, the precocious cartoon character inspired many other young girls around the world to do likewise. Camilla George was one of them.

Today this Nigerian-born, London-raised musician is a highly respected figure on the international jazz circuit, famous for her love of fusing African and western influences. Dubbed “the golden girl of jazz” by one critic, George’s albums also contain strong hip-hop elements based on her desire to return the genre to its dance roots.

Next week, George embarks on her first Irish tour with an all-star band, including performances at Sligo Jazz Fest, Newbridge, Thomastown, Cork, Carrick-on-Shannon, Listowel, Dublin, Letterkenny, Belfast and Wexford. Here is a playlist of songs that have inspired George over the years, along with her reasons why.

1. Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts: Mr JJ

This saxophone duel between Branford Marsalis and Michael Brecker is absolutely on fire. Whenever I listen to Mr JJ, I’m as excited and hyped as the first time. The virtuosity on display here is ridiculous.

2. Joshua Redman: Hide and Seek

Hide and Seek is always on repeat for me. I love the technical prowess of its melody and the solo is incredible.

3. Kenny Garrett: Sing a Song of Song

Anyone who knows me is well aware of how much I hero-worship Kenny Garrett – not just for his virtuosity on the instrument, but also for his genius approach to composition. His melodies are so catchy, but also way more harmonically complex than they appear. There’s none of the arrogance of writing complex music that sounds complex just for its own sake. He’s doing it truly for the art.

4. Walter Smith: I’ll Be Seeing You

I’ll Be Seeing You is one of my favourite standards and I love this version of it on Walter Smith’s 2018 album TWIO. Every time I hear this, I marvel at his mastery of the saxophone and improvisational prowess. It is perfect.

5. Roy Hargrove: Joy Is Sorrow Unmasked

This beautiful track makes me cry every time I listen to it. Roy Hargrove was hands-down one of my favourite musicians ever and I often can’t believe that he has passed. His legacy will live on.

6. Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Stitt and Sonny Rollins: On the Sunny Side of the Street

One of the first jazz records I ever heard, courtesy of my dad. The whole Sonny Side Up album is great, but the joy in this track feels particularly infectious. You have the saxophone battle between Sonny Stitt and Sonny Rollins, then Dizzy Gillespie’s singing at the end – an amazing and iconic piece of music.

7. Michael Brecker: Midnight Voyage

Michael Brecker’s solo entry on this classic tune gets me every time. It’s so hip! This was also one of the first solos I ever transcribed, as I was desperate to play along with the record.

8. Kenny Garrett: Wooden Steps

The intensity of Kenny Garrett’s playing on Wooden Steps is just amazing. He is a legend of the saxophone.

9. Wynton Marsalis: Delfeayo’s Dilemma

Black Codes (From the Underground) is such an iconic album. I remember being introduced to Wynton Marsalis by my saxophone teacher and marvelling at how great this was. It will always be one of my absolute faves.

10. Wayne Shorter: Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum

I got into Wayne Shorter’s album Speak No Evil at college and this was my favourite track. He is such a master in every way and Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum showcases that for me.

Camilla George’s Irish tour runs from June 15-26. For full details, see musicnetwork.ie. To hear her playlist, visit the Business Post page on Spotify

*Article by Andrew Lynch Sunday Business Post 10/06/2022