Under the Influence \\ Rapper Louis VI reveals his favourite five Jazz tracks

London based Louis VI is as influenced by Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald as much as Roots Manuva, Dizzee Rascal and Kano. His album The Lonely Road of the Dreamer tackles mental health and depression, and new track More Water demonstrates his appreciation for a jazz lick. Louis VI takes us through his favourite five jazz tunes, and reveals which artist he was named after.

Herbie Hancock \\ Watermelon Man

I know technically it’s less straight Jazz and more Bossa but this song brings back some really dope memories for me. I remember vividly, having just started out playing the trumpet as a kid and my Mum taking me to the Camden Jazz group run by the legendary Nikki Yeoh (it’s where I also first met Nubya Garcia, who’s killing now having just released her new album, by the way). I was told to “improvise” over Watermelon Man. I don’t think I’ve ever been so shit scared in my life and must of messed up the whole thing but this tune has stayed with me forever. It was a great introduction to the Bossa-Jazz hybrid world I would find myself playing a lot from when I started playing the drums properly as I got older. Such a joy-inducing melody, Herbie Hancock has always been a genius with emotion inducing top lines.

Dave Brubeck \\ Take Five

This was another of my first Jazz songs I learnt to play on the trumpet and I think it stuck with me because of the swing of the drums. I’ve always been a rhythm-head so the way the horn and Dave Brubeck ride counter to the drums always captures me in this track. In a subconscious way I feel this track may have inspired me to take up the drums, with Joe Morello‘s solo really being my first introduction to drums taking the shine on a track.

Miles Davies \\ Autumn Leaves

Easily the best version of Autumn Leaves in my opinion. When I was learning it on piano I wanted to follow Miles’ cadences because it was so deep. So effortless in the way he runs up and down the melody. For me that has always been the epitome and art of jazz; that’s why people can do covers in this genre because every expression of a melody is different depending on the player. The notes mean something totally different to the point it’s just a completely different song. It’s interesting that covers for example in hip hop are something that’s not even done at all, it just comes across as a mimic rather than something new… I still sing along to every note Miles plays!

Oscar Peterson Trio \\ Live From Chicago

I had to put the whole album rather than one song because this is probably my most listened to Jazz album and definitely my favourite. There’s one point I would listen to this every night before I went to sleep. It’s just a zone. Just the way Oscar plays, I mean, I know you hear it, the skill level and the speed combined with his sense of rhythm? Damn, it doesn’t really get any better for me. The whole tone of the album is just liquid rain drops and I love how you can hear Oscar talking along with his playing in parts; I think my favourite tracks are I’ve Never Been In Love Before, Chicago and Wood N’ You (you can really hear him singing along in that one).

Louis Armstrong & Ella Fitzgerald \\ Summertime

Easily one of my favourite songs of all time. It’s thanks to my Mum I was exposed to such a wide catalog of incredible calibre music, but this one stands out particularly as it was playing in the house all the time and she took me to see Porgy and Bess, which has a ridiculous amount of amazing Jazz tunes it must be said, and probably influenced me more than any other musical because it was about the South in slave times and the music. But also secondly because it’s Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald on a track, the duo from Heaven and what my Mum named me and my sister after (my name being Louis and my little sister’s being Ella). To be honest I’ve really got my Mum to thank for all these jazz tunes I’ve listed; she’s the one that took me to the Camden Jazz assemble first and always played the most incredible music around the house. I definitely wouldn’t be a musician if it wasn’t for her. Or at least I wouldn’t be a good one! If this comes on in the house, me and my Mum are singing this one out at the top of our lungs – please believe! This is me, her and my sis’s track so big up Mumma Music aka Sophie on this one! This one really goes out to you. Thanks for all the good music, Mum.

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