Durham Skywriter

Jazz vocalist Jua is originally from Chicago and lived in Alabama, Georgia, and Washington DC before settling in Raleigh. His rich voice has also gone through changes—wrapping itself around gospel, neo-soul, and R&B before exploring the sounds and nuances of jazz. “Colors of Life” is Jua’s second CD, and it must have been a thrill to have Onaje Allan Gumbs on board as producer (and on piano and Hammond B3). The other musicians are Roger Byam on tenor and soprano saxes, Shan Kenner on guitars,Gregory M Jones on bass, Vince Ector on drums, and Gary Fritz on percussion.

Among the originals that Jua wrote with friends and mentors are a couple of surprises: the CD starts out with Sam Rivers’s Beatrice and he does a nice, Brazilian-flavored take on Bill Withers’s Let Me Be the One.

Jazz Station

It's not smooth jazz. It's not another artist trying to become "the male version of Diana Krall" (nothing against Diana, btw, but it's time to jazz vocalists to move on and look for other references.) From the opener, Sam Rivers' "Beatrice," it's clear that Jua is a classy singer gifted with a strong persona, warm & silky voice, deep & pure tone, and creative phrasing.

You can hear traces of Mark Murphy's influences, but Jua is his own man, with a sound that has the dimensions of jazz, blues and soul. He knows how to work all the subtleties and nuances, and it's evident everywhere; in the vocal/acoustic guitar duo on Bob Dorough's "Love Came On Stealthy Fingers" (the best version I've heard since Carmen McRae's one) or in the tracks with larger instrumentation.

I can assure you've never heard a rendition of "Old Devil Moon" like this on "Colors of Life." Neither Bill Wither's "Let Me Be The One." Onaje Allan Gumbs' production is impeccable, and it gives me goose bumps when he plays Fender Rhodes. Pristine sound quality and great digipak cover art too. So far the best vocal jazz CD release of this year.

Jazz Weekly

Jua (no last name? OK!) works on seduction here. He’s got a breathy low tenor voice and soulful delivery, and makes it work on material ranging from Sam Rivers’ flexible “Beatrice” to lyrical “Believe.” The teammates Roger Byam/ts-ss, Shan Kenner/g, Onaje Allan gumbs/key, Gregory M. Jones/b, Vince Ector/dr and Gary Fritz/perc can allow Jua to float like clouds as on a gorgeous “Old Devil Moon” or get moody with silhouettes as on “You’re My Alter Ego.” He displays a rich vibrato with some classical guitar on a passionate “Love Came On Stealthy Fingers” and goes wispy and dreamy with Byam’s tenor on “Colors of Life.” He’s got it down!

The Jazz Page

Colors of Life isn’t his debut recording, but the effort does mark a jazz-focused debut for vocalist Jua. The sophomore effort for the North Carolina-based talent makes quite the impression. While the singer has a voice that remind some of other talents, he has quite the style and sound of his own. In fact, it was so distinguished that it won him the Mark Murphy Vocal Jazz Scholarship at Berkeley’s Jazzschool Insititute (now known as the California Jazz Conservatory). Produced by veteran pianist, arranger and composer Onaje Allan Gumbs, the production is a mesmerizing showcase of the singer’s command of lyric and tone. The set features a nice palette of originals by Jua and excellently arranged covers of tunes by Abbey Lincoln, Bill Withers, Sam Rivers, Bob Dorough and James Williams. Making the music for the words are Gumbs on keys, guitarist Shan Kenner, drummer Victor Ector, bassist Gregory M. Jones, saxophonist Roger Byam and percussionist Gary Fritz. Jua truly delivers with every tune and the entire effort.

KUCI 88.9 FM in Irvine

While we are on the subject of jazz vocals Jua Howard has one of those voices that has the tonal purity and expressiveness of a great horn player. Like Chet Baker, Sarah Vaughn, Al Jarreau, and Elvis Costello,and yeah Mel Torme, Jua envelops you in song. Not all of his material is lyrically strong, but he brings passion and sensitivity to his work. As has been said of others before, I could listen to him sing the phone book. He takes an early Sam Rivers ballad to heart, "Beatrice", nails an original tune, a minor key ballad, "Time Past", takes Bob Dorough's "Love Came On Stealthy Fingers" to a wonderful place, and excels on his own tune the title cut "Colors Of Life". 

Jazz Syndicate Management and Promotions

Jua well i am very proud to say i have been around watching his musical growth for a good few years,i hope i am right in saying i was the first in Europe to play his music on my own show on Jazz Syndicate Radio,those original tracks went on to become the building blocks of his debut album "Anticipation".
Know after our long discussions over the years and my gentle advice that he should  focus his talent towards jazz well here it is "Colours Of Life" 10 tracks that highlight JUA's stunning vocals.
It's a blend of classic jazz songs and some of his own compositions,he sings from his soul to make this an enlightening and beautiful album.
 
Aja (Ketch A Vibe)

Liner Notes Lounge

Back in July, 2012, I was introduced to a young vocalist to schedule what was to be my first telephone interview. On August 22, 2012, I had the pleasure of engaging in a 90-minute conversation with this vocalist by the name of Jua Howard. We only recorded an hour of that conversation, and continued to have an intense offline discussion of music. It was in that interview (click HERE for the interview) that I learned Jua was beginning to work on his sophomore release, Colors of Life. I was so excited for him, and I promised we would schedule a follow-up interview after the release.

Colors of Life was released on June 24, 2014 and it delivers everything this music-lover looks for in good music. The opening notes of the first track, a wonderful cover of Sam Rivers’ tune “Beatrice,” are reminiscent of hearing the striking up of the band in anticipation of the musical ride that is to follow. Jua’s voice wraps around every note carefully, and it is evident that he embodies a combination of natural vocal talent, as well as vocal training. Abbey Lincoln’s “Bird Alone” places the listener into an intimate setting with Jua, much like the house concerts and smaller jazz venues he often frequents.

Jua is backed by a stellar group of musicians, including keyboardist Onaje Allan Gumbs, who also produced Colors of Life. Saxophonist Roger Byam adds a special touch to Gumbs’ arrangement of “Old Devil Moon.” Jua’s vocals on the tune are as intoxicating as the lyrics suggest. “Time Past,” by Matt Clark and Jua Howard, shifts the CD from classic jazz tunes into a more contemporary sound. In a time when I feel many vocalists seem to rely on riffs, Jua sings without vocal gymnastics and thus achieves a much richer sound, moving through notes with fluidity.

One can never be a passive listener when hearing Jua’s music. In “Love Came on Stealthy Fingers,” Jua’s voice cradles and caresses you, inviting you to hang on to every note. The nicely blended harmonies of the title track, “Colors of Life,” paired perfectly with the lyrics, “Colors of life, melting into hues of joy…”

Please visit Jua’s website, www.juasmusic.com for his performance schedule. Listen to more music at sound cloud.com/juasmusic and watch his performance videos at www.youtube.com/Grammy08. I’m looking forward to hearing him perform live. Also look for a follow-up conversation with Jua, coming soon to Liner Notes Lounge. Colors of Life – nicely done!

The Examiner

Colors of Life’ is a rebirth of me as an artist. I’m putting myself out there like, ‘This is who I am, and this is what’s in store.’ I’m making the statement of, ‘I’m here. This is what I’m supposed to do. This is my destiny.’

Chicago-born, Raleigh, NC-based vocalist Jua Howard, 35, was well on his way to becoming a successful neo-soul artist. Think Luther Vandross and Donny Hathaway with a strong gospel and classical choir upbringing. But after awhile, after his self-released, 2007 album of mostly original ballads, Anticipation, and his music receiving heavy R&B/smooth jazz radio play, Howard felt restless for more.

“I got tired of what I was doing. With the neo-soul scene, everything started sounding the same,” Howard said. Several happy accidents led him to switch genres: His Chicago vocal coach, Sondra Davis, suggested he sing again after graduating from Atlanta’s Emory University with a B.A. in English, which sent him to D.C. to sing with the jazz-oriented Blackbyrds, and then he caught Nancy Wilson live.

“She had such presence. It just kinda made me change my way of thinking,” Howard said. He wanted to be a part of the improvisational process, as opposed to just standing there grabbing all the attention. “Jazz, which is based on improvisation, is about being a part of an ensemble and everyone communicating with each other to get the musical statement across,” he explained. “Even though I’m standing in front, I’m just one of the instruments telling a story to the audience. It’s about the story and the music, and paying respect and credence to the music.”

Howard studied in the Bay Area’s Berkeley Jazzschool Institute, now the California Jazz Conservatory. It was there that he earned the Mark Murphy Vocal Jazz Scholarship, the first student to do so, and studied under Bobby McFerrin’s Voicestra vocal coach Raz Kennedy.

What came from those studies is Howard’s second major album, out since June 24, 2014 on Chocolate Chi Music. The 10-track Colors Of Life features the aspiring jazz vocalist and composer on four of his own tunes — three co-written with former Jazzschool instructor, pianist Matt Clark, and guitarist Shan Kenner, who’s on the record as a part of the band — and revamped standards by Bill Withers, Abbey Lincoln, Sam Rivers, Yip Harburg/Burton Lane, Bob Dorough, and James Williams and Pamela Baskin-Watson.

Onaje Allan Gumbs produced Howard’s album. Previously, the veteran New York producer/arranger did the same for Woody Shaw, Norman Connors, and Nat Adderley. He’s on the record as the pianist/organist, along with Kenner, bassistGregory M. Jones, drummer Vince Ector, percussionist Gary Fritz, and tenor/soprano saxophonist Roger Byam.

From the opening of Rivers’ “Beatrice,” which Howard lyricized, to his original tune with Clark on the jazz jump-start, “Finally,” it’s clear the student came to play.

Colors of Life is an honest expression of my life and the world around me,” Howard said. “The process of planning and recording this project with world-class-talent musicians taught me a great deal about my developing voice as an artist. I am eager for listeners to learn more about me through this music.”

There’s still the neo-soul/gospel remnants in the jazz-ready player, as he feels his way through the intricate grooves of the tough-to-nail melodically embedded lyrics, the high and low notes — often in one setting, and in between the instrumental runs. It’s an awful lot to consider. He has a full band here, one he must work around and with, without losing his voice in the tremendous musicality and, often, the tremendously overwhelming brass of the saxophone presence.

He seems most at ease on “Beatrice,” which relies on uttermost relaxation surging impossibly sudden levels at every turn. That he wrote the lyrics for this, as well as another roller-coaster of a difficult lyrical ride, “Finally,” speaks to his studied ambition. Executing such a hard, self-imposed task ahead of him is another matter.

He does well, though, letting the swing take him several octaves, impossibly slow and then rising high. Saxophonist Sam Rivers first put this instrumental on his 1964 debut album, Fuchsia Swing Song, for Blue Note. Jazzschool instructor Mark Levin played it during a jazz theory class, blowing Howard’s mind, filling him with possibility. The promise of this young vocalist as a jazz composer comes through in the hotter tempo, the ease of reinvention that flows effortlessly.

Cassandra Wilson and Jacky Terrasson’s “Old Devil Moon” also got Howard going. The pattern of rising shots becomes even more clear. As challenging as it can be to reach those highs and lows, Howard likes going there even when his voice threatens to waver and war, as it does here. Saxophonist Roger Byam gives it some body when Howard’s voice can’t.

The heavy big band horns of the usual numbers take a break on “Love Came On Stealthy Fingers,” as Kenner holds steady on a lighter, almost folky acoustic guitar effect. Howard’s voice here is tender, delicate, strong and steady on the slightest filament of will and understanding. He brings to light the highs and lows of the sentiment of this Dorough song justifiably, a slower tempo with predictable endings faring much better in his care.

Kenner and Howard’s “Colors Of Life” also highlights the singer’s ability to provide lift in his voice, as if his entire body is moving to the music’s ballet. Building a vocal choir beneath his lyricism adds the extra volume to accent dramatic builds.

One minor point: After awhile, some of the songs get jumbled together in the mind. James Williams/Pamela Baskin-Watson’s “You’re My Alter Ego” kind of blends in with “Old Devil Moon,” and “Time Past,” and… you get the idea. He needs a rhythmic break not just to show versatility, but to give the listener a chance to breathe and feel something different.

Midwest Record

CHOCOLATE CHI 
JUA/Colors of Life: This jazz vocalist was realist enough to see that artist development and apprenticeship were things of the past and ‘invested in his own brand' enough to come up with an interesting debut. Realizing he wasn't too cool for school, especially when receiving the school's first Mark Murphy Scholarship, he went back to refine under the aegis of some jazz masters. Changing direction upon graduation, Jua now finds himself with a dandy case of sophomore jinx repellant with this this breezy, deceptively simple second outing. Assimilating SoCal jazz as much as an NC cat can, he's now firmly exploring the pocket of the great male jazz vocalists of the past. With elements of everyone from Joe Williams to Al Jarreau on board, this is smoking stuff throughout. A tasty ear opener that's really firing on all eight. 

The Jazz Chill Corner

Colors of Life, the second CD by Raleigh, North Carolina-based vocalist Jua, marks an artistic rebirth for the 35-year-old singer. His 2007 debut, Anticipation, had enjoyed attention from smooth-jazz and R&B stations, but Jua was having second thoughts about his direction and soon found his way to Berkeley's Jazzschool Institute. There he devoted a year to intensive jazz studies and was the first recipient of the school's annual Mark Murphy Vocal Jazz Scholarship. His musical goals came into sharp focus. 
Jua now emerges as a unique and highly emotive jazz vocal stylist with the remarkable 10-song CD Colors of Life, which will be released by his Chocolate Chi Music on June 24. Produced by Onaje Allan Gumbs, the veteran New York pianist, arranger, and producer noted for his work with Norman Connors, Nat Adderley, Woody Shaw, and many others, the album showcases Jua in the company of Gumbs on piano and (on one track) Hammond B-3 organ, guitarist Shan Kenner, bassist Gregory M. Jones, drummer Vince Ector, percussionist Gary Fritz, and tenor and soprano saxophonist Roger Byam. 
The disc features four original compositions by Jua (three written in collaboration with his former Jazzschool instructor, pianist Matt Clark, the other with Kenner), along with the standard "Old Devil Moon" and tunes by Abbey Lincoln ("Bird Alone"), Bob Dorough ("Love Came on Stealthy Fingers"), Bill Withers ("Let Me Be the One"), and James Williams ("You're My Alter Ego"). Jua also added lyrics to Rivers's 1964 ballad "Beatrice," which opens the album. Arrangements were handled by Gumbs, Kenner, and Clark.
  
"Colors of Life is an honest expression of my life and the world around me," says Jua. "The process of planning and recording this project with world-class-talent musicians taught me a great deal about my developing voice as an artist. I am eager for listeners to learn more about me through this music."
  
While growing up in Chicago, Jua Howard was involved in the gamut of athletic activities, but veered toward music after moving with his mother to Lanett, Alabama. He began playing trumpet in the fifth grade, joined the youth choir (and was frequently called upon to solo) at a local Baptist church, and was selected for the Alabama All-State Boys Choir, an ensemble of some 70 voices that focused on European classical music. He and his mother spent two years as members of the All-Atlanta Choir, and Jua then enrolled at Emory University in Atlanta, where he sang in the gospel choir and graduated with a B.A. in English.
  
He put his singing on hold for two years after graduation, but back in Chicago vocal coach Sondra Davis encouraged him to resume applying his richly rounded multi-octave pipes to song. He relocated to Washington, DC. and worked for a time as a background vocalist with the Blackbyrds. "Jazz was clearly a big part of their foundation," says Jua, "and singing with them made me think about pursuing jazz as a career."
As did Nancy Wilson, whom he saw perform in Atlanta. "She had such presence," he recalls. "It just kinda made me change my way of thinking."
Jua "Jazz," he adds, "which is based on improvisation, is about being a part of an ensemble and everyone communicating with each other to get the musical statement across. Even though I'm standing in front, I'm just one of the instruments telling a story to the audience. It's about the story and the music, and paying respect and credence to the music."
Jua, who uses only his first name professionally (it's Swahili for "sun"), cites Vandross, Hathaway, Al Jarreau, Johnny Mathis, Mark Murphy, and gospel great Daryl Coley as influences on his style. Yet, as evidenced throughout Colors of Life, Jua has developed a distinctive, emotion-gripping approach to song that's quite wonderfully his own.
In addition to taking his new music to several North Carolina venues in the next month (5/31 Irregardless Café, Raleigh; 6/7 Unvined Wine Bar &Tapas, Cary; 6/28 Sharp Nine Gallery, Durham), Jua has booked a 7/11 appearance at New York's Cornelia Street Café. "I am wholeheartedly excited about my upcoming gigs to support the release of Colors of Life," says Jua. "It's always a lot of fun to tell my story and connect with the audience."

Press Release

"Colors of Life,"
2nd CD by Vocalist Jua,
Set for June 24 Release 
By Chocolate Chi Music

Produced by Onaje Allan Gumbs,
Disc Features Material by
Sam Rivers, James Williams, Abbey Lincoln, Bill Withers

CD Release Shows Scheduled for
5/31 Irregardless Cafe, Raleigh
6/7 Unvined Wine Bar & Tapas, Cary, NC
6/28 Sharp Nine Gallery, Durham
7/11 Cornelia Street Cafe, NYC     


May 30, 2014

 

 
Jua Colors of Life
Colors of Life, the second CD by Raleigh, North Carolina-based vocalist Jua, marks an artistic rebirth for the 35-year-old singer. His 2007 debut, Anticipation, had enjoyed attention from smooth-jazz and R&B stations, but Jua was having second thoughts about his direction and soon found his way to Berkeley's Jazzschool Institute. There he devoted a year to intensive jazz studies and was the first recipient of the school's annual Mark Murphy Vocal Jazz Scholarship. His musical goals came into sharp focus.

 

Jua now emerges as a unique and highly emotive jazz vocal stylist with the remarkable 10-song CD Colors of Life, which will be released by his Chocolate Chi Music on June 24. Produced by Onaje Allan Gumbs, the veteran New York pianist, arranger, and producer noted for his work with Norman Connors, Nat Adderley, Woody Shaw, and many others, the album showcases Jua in the company of Gumbs on piano and (on one track) Fender Rhodes, guitarist Shan Kenner, bassist Gregory M. Jones, drummer Vince Ector, percussionist Gary Fritz, and tenor and soprano saxophonist Roger Byam.

 

The disc features four original compositions by Jua (three written in collaboration with his former Jazzschool instructor, pianist Matt Clark, the other with Kenner), along with the standard "Old Devil Moon" and tunes by Abbey Lincoln ("Bird Alone"), Bob Dorough ("Love Came on Stealthy Fingers"), Bill Withers ("Let Me Be the One"), and James Williams ("You're My Alter Ego"). Jua also added lyrics to Rivers's 1964 ballad "Beatrice," which opens the album. Arrangements were handled by Gumbs, Kenner, and Clark.

 

"Colors of Life is an honest expression of my life and the world around me," says Jua. "The process of planning and recording this project with world-class-talent musicians taught me a great deal about my developing voice as an artist. I am eager for listeners to learn more about me through this music."

  

Jua 

While growing up in Chicago, Jua Howard was involved in the gamut of athletic activities, but veered toward music after moving with his mother to Lanett, Alabama. He began playing trumpet in the fifth grade, joined the youth choir (and was frequently called upon to solo) at a local Baptist church, and was selected for the Alabama All-State Boys Choir, an ensemble of some 70 voices that focused on European classical music. He and his mother spent two years as members of the All-Atlanta Choir, and Jua then enrolled at Emory University in Atlanta, where he sang in the gospel choir and graduated with a B.A. in English.

 

He put his singing on hold for two years after graduation, but back in Chicago vocal coachSondra Davis encouraged him to resume applying his richly rounded multi-octave pipes to song. He relocated to Washington, DC. and worked for a time as a background vocalist with theBlackbyrds. "Jazz was clearly a big part of their foundation," says Jua, "and singing with them made me think about pursuing jazz as a career."

 

As did Nancy Wilson, whom he saw perform in Atlanta. "She had such presence," he recalls. "It just kinda made me change my way of thinking."

 

Jua"Jazz," he adds, "which is based on improvisation, is about being a part of an ensemble and everyone communicating with each other to get the musical statement across. Even though I'm standing in front, I'm just one of the instruments telling a story to the audience. It's about the story and the music, and paying respect and credence to the music."

 

Jua, who uses only his first name professionally (it's Swahili for "sun"), cites Vandross, Hathaway, Al Jarreau, Johnny Mathis, Mark Murphy, and gospel great Daryl Coley as influences on his style. Yet, as evidenced throughout Colors of Life, Jua has developed a distinctive, emotion-gripping approach to song that's quite wonderfully his own.

 

In addition to taking his new music to several North Carolina venues in the next month (5/31 Irregardless Café, Raleigh; 6/7 Unvined Wine Bar &Tapas, Cary; 6/28 Sharp Nine Gallery, Durham), Jua has booked a 7/11 appearance at New York's Cornelia Street Café. "I am wholeheartedly excited about my upcoming gigs to support the release of Colors of Life," says Jua. "It's always a lot of fun to tell my story and connect with the audience." 



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The Oakland Post

Vocalist Jua Makes Jump From Soul to Jazz

Two years ago, Jua Howard was making something of name for himself in neo-soul circles, crooning in velvety tenor tones reminiscent of Luther Vandross and Will Downing in clubs in New York City and London. “Anticipation,” his 2007 self-released CD of mostly original ballads, was picking up play on smooth-jazz and R&B stations. Earlier, he had sung background vocals for the Blackbyrds, the Washington, D.C. band known for such 1970s hits as “Walking in Rhythm” and “Happy Music.”
Yet Jua, who uses only his first name professionally (it’s Swahili for “sun”), was having second thoughts about his musical direction. “I got tired of what I was doing,” the 30-year-old Chicago-born singer says following a vocal performance class at the Jazzschool Institute in Berkeley. “With the neo-soul scene, everything started sounding the same.”
During the summer, Jua quit his nine-to-five job with a nonprofit scholarship program in D.C., moved to East Palo Alto and enrolled at the Jazzschool. The singer, who holds a BA in English from Emory University in Atlanta, is again a fulltime student. Other current classes include ear training/sight singing, working musician, jazz theory and world music. He also studies privately with noted vocal coach Raz Kennedy, formerly of Bobby McFerrin’s Voicestra.
In November, Jua was chosen as the first recipient of the Jazzschool’s newly established Mark Murphy Vocal Jazz Scholarship, named for veteran poll-winning singer Murphy.
Jua says he chose the Jazzschool over other institutions with jazz programs because it offers solo vocal classes. Many other schools focus on ensemble singing, which has very little relationship to the marketplace, considering that there are few, if any, professional jazz choirs. And Jua has his heart set on becoming a professional jazz singer.
“Even though there is improvisation in soul music,” he says, “it’s not on the level that jazz is on. Stressing the idea that your voice is an instrument is a very clear difference for me. Jazz artists really look at their voice as an instrument and really educate themselves so much more in school and on the bandstand.”
Being a jazz singer, he adds, “is like being part of the band. It’s not just, ‘I’m a vocalist. I sing.’ No, I’m one of the band members. I don’t see that so much in the soul realm, where you have the vocalist in the front and band just playing along with ‘em. It’s not as much of an interaction, whereas in jazz there’s more of a conversation going on between the vocalist and the instrumentalists.”
Jua will complete his first of eight projected semesters with a free concert featuring himself and the six other students in Jazzschool Instutute Vocal Director Laurie Antonioli’s current vocal performance class. The concert theme is the Great American Songbook, and the students will each perform two standards of their choice. Jua plans to do “Route 66” and “I’m Glad There Is You” at the concert, which begins at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, December 16, at the Jazzschool, 2087 Addison Street in Berkeley.
Send comments and story ideas to Lee Hildebrand at LeeHilde@aol.com

Soul Tracks

Anticipation is a 15-track debut CD by Jua, a new artist from Upper Marlboro, MD. Sounding like a blend of Luther Vandross, Will Downing, Jr and Freddie Jackson, Jua takes a sensual approach to his music, resulting in a HOT album, with silky lyrics and vocal arrangements that make you pause and take notice.
Filled with emotionally intense love ballads like Vandross or Jackson and a sparse, "unplugged" musical style of Seal and Maxwell . Andicipation clearly puts the focus on Jua's vocal prowess and the interesting content of his lyrics. That being said, more variety in instrumentation would have, overall, been a plus, and would have made this "quiet storm" even more interesting.

Despite any criticism of the arrangements, this CD is a worthy introduction of Jua to the adult soul music world. With eight awesome songs ("Higher," "Everytime," the title track, "Free Fall," favorites "Dream," "Lost Paradise," "Just Breath" and an excellent rendition of "That's All") Jua has staked his claim as a hot young artist to watch.

If you want to fall in love again with quality music and love ballads, Anticipation is a CD that you MUST add to your music collection. Highly Recommended.

Just Soul

October 07 saw the release of the debut Anticipation the debut album from Jua, from Upper Marlboro, Washington DC, whose vocals make a nice to your album collection.
The album begins with Higher where Jua is giving hope to a woman who has been hurt and disappointed by past relationships, and telling her how his love can take her higher. The nice bass and gentle groove make me believe this is a single in the waiting to be released. Jua delights his listeners with mid tempo tracks and a few ballads on this 15 track album, which is very good for a debut. Jua’s vocals never disappointed me on any of the tracks, whether he was singing falsetto like Maxwell or just soothing you like Luther Vandross. It is clear he has spent time refining his voice and working on his craft; his ‘Best Choral Member’ award, and work with the Blackbyrds have not been a fluke. Unfortunately there were a couple of times that the production of the songs let him down, and did not do him justice. This album is definitely for the lover of good vocals and serious lyrics about love and relationships, there are no hip hop beats, booty bouncing or club anthems on this album. One of my favourite tracks is Push it Further where Jua is tempting his date to stay after dinner, let’s just say listening to that track had my mind racing and a big smile on my face. Temptation has Jua affirming that he is not about to mess up his current relationship by being enticed by his ex- that witch! Whilst Every Time has Jua affirming that he will be there every time his woman needs him, and how he has so much to share with her. The title track Anticipation is a gentle upbeat song about how he is looking forward to meeting this girl and all the plans he has for her, and how he has been thinking of her since they last met up. Lost Paradise shows the other side of Jua, where he is singing about love which has turned sour by betrayal, and he is bitter. Jua wraps up the album with what is my favourite track of the album, a cover of the classic That’s All. Jua shows he can sing jazz as well as soul; a truly amazing song. Overall a good debut album from an independent artist, and I believe with the right backing and slicker production Jua can go really far.

Soulchoonz

Radio Interview with Gary Spence of Solar Radio!!!

Just Soul

It’s a warm autumn night, and locked away in a penthouse in North London is Jua, the amazing singer from Upper Marlboro, Washington DC, who has just released his debut album Anticipation. Born in Chicago Illinois, one score and nine years ago, Jua, which means ‘the sun’ in Swahili, has been making his mark in music singing in all state choirs, gaining music scholarships, and singing with the legendary group the Blackbyrds; not bad for the guy who until recently was ready to leave the music world behind. Jua invited JustSoul for an exclusive tête-à-tête about his past, present and what it really means to push it further.
Ricardito: So what are you doing in London?
Jua: Well I’m in London mainly for a vacation, I haven’t been here for 7 years and I had been promising to come back every year. London is a good platform for music; the artists I am into are pretty popular here more than so in America even though they started there like Alexander O’Neil. The level of appreciation is deeper here than in America. Lots of DJ’s here are playing my music here far more here like on Jazz Syndicate Radio, Solar and Star Point Radio. As I am here, I thought it was a good idea to physically present myself to people that enjoy my music.

Ricardito: How long have you been singing?
Jua: I’ve been singing all my life from about 5 or 6 years old. I am sure my grandfather still has some really embarrassing videos of me singing and dancing. I have done everything from school plays, school choirs, all state choirs, to high school productions.







Interview

Ricardito: Cool do you play any instruments?
Jua: I play a little trumpet and euphonium/baritone. I've taken several piano lessons, but I honestly cannot play a lick; oh I did play in the marching band too.

Ricardito: Tell me a little about your musical journey.
Jua: I won a music scholarship from my school choir to go to college, and from that I was also able to audition and join the All Atlanta Choir. Every Christmas they’d have a joint concert with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, so I got to do that for a couple of years in a row. My mum also joined the choir so we would drive from Alabama to Atlanta for rehearsals. I also did weddings, pageants, whatever was happening I would be there, but that wasn’t what I wanted to do, I wanted to be a cardiologist for a long time. After a while I thought about lawyer and being an entertainment attorney for a record label because at least then I’d still be in the industry. I got to college and got the singing bug again and started singing at sporting events; you know singing the national anthem. The more feedback I received and the more I thought about it I decided the more I really wanted to do this. So I did some open mic events when I was in London in 2000 which went really, really well, but then I’d go back to saying “I don’t know”.

Ricardito: Really? Why was that?
Jua: Well after college I had a bad situation with the choir I performed with, which led me to not sing for a while. I got down on myself because there was a lot of jealousy and negatively within the choir which I don’t deal with. I felt that if this is where my gift is going to bring me to then I don’t want to do it, I don’t see the point I’ll do something else.

Ricardito: Wow, sorry to hear that. So what did you do next?
Jua: Well I went to Chicago after graduating in a degree in English from Emory University and put off going to law school for two years in a row by working in a law firm in Chicago for some really crappy people instead. Then Bilal came out with his debut album, and I went crazy. I remember listening to his album and thinking I miss music, and it really inspired me. So I found a vocal coach in Chicago (Sandra Davis), she really focussed me and pulled it out of me even when I didn’t want to practice that much. She helped me find my voice from not singing at all. We only did about an hour to 90 minutes a week. She introduced me to new songs like That’s All, to see if I like it, but I never thought of that music for my voice. Sandra helped me strengthen my voice and find my voice as at that point when I was in a state of limbo about what to do. You know a lot of people said I should do gospel music, but I did not want to do it because although I love to listen to it I don’t think my voice fits that.

Ricardito: So when did you decide to start the album?
Jua: Well last year it really hit me that I wanted to do music, and that I should undertake it on my own not wait for a label to come for me. I thought to myself “I’m not singing anywhere so who the heck knows who you are?” The album took over a year to complete; I started in July 2006, but due to travelling, illness, and just getting myself back together it took a while.

Ricardito: Tell me about some of the themes on the album.
Jua: Well some of songs were about me and how I was feeling at the time, there are some that were dealing with friends, there are some about stuff I saw on tv and I thought were cool.

Ricardito: Well there are lots of songs about love and the different aspects of love…
Jua: Yes I talk about different themes. Well I know you like the song Push it Further but I was uneasy about that song at first. Everything else on my album wasn’t as sexual, and it’s not explicit or anything but it wasn’t till I read the lyrics alongside the music that I thought yes “this fits its cool”. I was going for a sensual tone, but at first I was like “errrrr I don’t know about this, and all that stuff about the hips”. Invisible really appealed to me, its one of my favourite tracks in just the way it made me feel. I just picked the topic I knew it would be relatable to some people. It’s like Sade 2007, when I heard the saxophone, the beat and everything. I mean my whole thing was that I wanted to make a quality album and be relatable to people. I didn’t want everything to sound the same because that would be boring, but I didn’t want to make something that is not me just to be commercial; it had to fit my voice.

Ricardito: How do you feel about your album?
Jua: I am very proud of my album, I feel like I have achieved. I like the mix of the songs, I like that a lot of people have commented on the writing. My perfect trio or formula is excellent lyrics, excellent music then excellent vocals. People have different taste on vocals, some people may not like my voice, but then lyrical content is very important to me as it is a representation of who you are as an artist. [The album] is a journey from when you meet someone to the in between phase when you are into a person but you are not sure, to when you are in love to when it’s all over and literally that’s all.

And before I knew it that was literally all the time we had with Jua. Check out Jua’s debut CD Anticipation available on itunes and many other musical outlets, and be entranced by this talented young man.