Gumbo Live serves up hot, steamy talent

By Natasha Clark

Reminder Assistant Editor

Gumbolive has become an open stage for artists, musicians and poets to share their talents in a supportive environment.

On the third Friday of each month people from all over the country have come to participate in a new movement taking place in Chicopee.

Last week Reminder Publications had the pleasure of sitting in on an evening of Gumbo where the stew is not only delicious, but the appetite for good music and poetry is satisfied as well.

Traveling to Chicopee from Los Angeles, California, singer/poet Laura Jane said her experience with Gumbo was great. "I had no idea what to expect. There was a really good energy in the room. [The audience] was receptive. I felt like there were good people there."

Jane is not new to the music scene. She's used her vocals to back-up singers such as the late Aaliyah, Monica, Jessica Simpson, Kelly Clarkson and Wicked Wisdom and Jada Pinkett-Smith.

Her sound is a fusion of soul, funk and R & B. In a live setting, Jane captures the audience with her dancing, her huge mane of corkscrew curls swinging, and the humorous banter she adlibs in between her sets. Since Gumbo is an intimate setting, the audience can't help but feel like a part of the show.

After her show a couple of weeks ago, Jane flew back to Los Angeles and talked with Reminder Publications over the phone. She talked about her Gumbolive experience and why places like it are important for artists.

"Music has become so homogenized. People feel that 'I have to sound like her to sell records or I have to act like this to get noticed,'" Jane explained. "The most important thing for me is to represent individuality. People are not encouraged to be individuals."

That's why, when Jane learned about Gumbo, she felt the need to participate in it. She said the way artists supported each other was another element that enticed her to come down to Massachusetts.

"I learned about Gumbo through Ish Ish is in New York. He owns a record shop, my record is sold there, and he referred me to [Gumbo owner] James Lewis, and we've been in touch," Jane said. "Everything is a referral, a network. [Gumbo] is a group of people that are like a network and like a coalition and it's truly inspiring ... I love independent artists."

Singing since a young age, Jane has had exposure through various venues, including movie soundtracks her song Everything Changes was featured in the independent film They Would Love You in France.

Jane wants to keep that eclectic, unique sound to her music, and she refuses to conform to the music industry's standard of popular music.

"I like the fact that I sing on projects that are different genres, it makes you aware that there's all kinds of music and all types can be appreciated. I try to get that across in my albums," she added. "It took me a long time to define myself and believe in it. Since I finished this record, I want to push this and see what happens. I've got to stay committed."

Like Gumbolive performer K'Alyn, she plans to return to Gumbo in the future.

Hailing from Washington D.C., K'Alyn has spent most of his life engrossed in music as well. Coming from a musical family, K'Alyn also plays the piano, bass guitar and said he dabbles with the trumpet he's mostly seen with his guitar.

At the Nov. 18 session of Gumbolive, he strummed his instrument to the appreciation of the room, especially the women when he later broke into a rendition of Stevie Wonder's Talk with God.

K'Alyn said performing at places like Gumbo gives him the chance to be a little more free with his act.

"It's a place where I can concentrate on listeners. I tend to have more concentration in a live set," he explained. "It helps me to execute the music, keeps me more in sync."

With a self-described "natural knack for being able to always make something out of whatever instrument I picked up," K'Alyn learned about Gumbo through Ish as well, and reached out to George of Nu Ground Entertainment, an affiliate of Gumbolive, and made the trip up.

"It was great. The people were very receptive and very warm," he said, echoing some of Jane's sentiments.

K'Alyn has also played with popular musicians, appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno with singer Me'Shell Ndegeocello.

K'Alyn's music encompasses a variety of sounds, though best described as neo-soul, the songs on the crooner's album vary in their vibe. There seems to be something for everyone. It was apparent in the selection he chose to perform at Gumbolive; from Reflections, a soul, R & B record, to the rock tinged Less Than, K'Alyn showed his versatility.

"I enjoy a lot of different types of music. I try to match the music with the feeling, paint the scene through music," he said. "So some songs call for certain textures of instrumentation to make the whole scene in sync with the music and melody."

Taking his appreciation for music to a new level for himself, K'Alyn is embarking to Ethiopia for a six-month stay.

"I'm going to be playing at a club for six months in Addis Ababa, Eithiopia. The idea is to appeal to the tourists and establish a local scene. I wouldn't have imagined myself doing this," he added. "I'm looking forward to the creative environment. There's a certain freedom that exists in this scenario."

To learn more about Laura Jane or to purchase her new CD To My Planet, Boo visit her website K'Alyn's new CD Verse 1 Chapter III may also be purchased through his website

Gumbolive takes place the third Friday of each month at the Days Inn, 450 Memorial Drive, Chicopee. Advance tickets are also available at Reflections Emporium, 667 Dickinson Street , Springfield, or by calling 788-7600. Artists interested in performing can also call the same number for more information.