Tag Archive | Live music

iTunes Festival 2014: Mary J. Blige steals hearts with timeless hits at the Roundhouse

This review was originally written for the Daily Star, found here.

R&B queen Mary J Blige can always be counted on to pack out a concert — and fans both new and from her 90s heyday packed in to see her at this year’s iTunes Festival.

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The stunning singer songwriter has a platinum-covered history of 11 albums since 1992 and she clearly knew that the audience at the Roundhouse in Camden, London craved some soulful nostalgia.

She strutted out in her iconic glam style, massive shades, miles of gold-studded leather and stiletto shoes sharp enough to kill a man.

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A Jazz Interlude: Interview with George Simmonds of The Squintet

This article can also be found at the South West Londoner, here.

It’s difficult being 22. For most of us, it’s the point where we struggle to balance adulthood with the aftermath of university. But for George Simmonds there’s a jazz quintet to lead and a music agency to run. And astoundingly, both things are rapidly gaining momentum.

A Londoner through and through and presently based in Tottenham, George has taken his love of jazz music from a young age and formed his band, The Squintet, with childhood friends and other budding artists.

George himself leads on trombone and vocals, his old high school friend Jamie Hone on saxophone, Mike Cuthbert on keyboard, and Jack Polley on bass guitar.


Rob Hervais is the newest member of the band, on the drums, replacing Bryan Taylor who left.
With them, he’s shared his jazz passion all over London (including Soho, Islington and the famous The Rivoli Ballroom in Lewisham) and also abroad in Istanbul and Norway.

Over time their sound has changed – starting out with a strong swing feeling, before moving to a more funk-focused, New Orleans-style sound in recent months. The change was sparked by the drummer Rob, and George says that the band has definitely become more comfortable since.

At the start of performances with The Squintet, George likes to open with ‘Honeysuckle Rose’ by Fats Wallop, a piece played to him by his grandfather as a child. The version he was familiar with was performed by Acker Bilk, and the memory has always stuck with him. 

His musical influences include J.J. Johnson, Jimmy Knepper (both trombonists), and Charlie Parker. More recently he’s been taking on the funk-based influences of James Brown and Fred Wesley.
During a period of taking an interest in composing, Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus’ jazz orchestras were a major factor.

For the last two months, George has also plunged into the world of business with the Maxwell Barrett Music Agency. Christened after his middle names, he uses it to both set up his own gigs and those of his steadily increasing client list.

After playing music professionally for three years, he felt that to go into conventional employment and have less time for his music was not an option.

Running a business in your early 20s is a fairly daunting task, so he co-runs it with his father.
New gigs are being planned all the time, and George is definitely looking to perform more in the South West London area.

You can find out about future gigs at www.maxwellbarrett.com or on his Facebook page.