Allo Andy

An exclusive interview with Andy Allo, a hugely singer, songwriter and collaborator with Prince at Pizza Express Jazz Club. Andy has the voice of an angel alongside well-honed songwriting and musical talents.  There is little else to be said, just enjoy the interview by clicking the link:

With Andy at Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho – for the coolest gigs in London see http://www.pizzaexpresslive.co.uk

With another guitarist … 🙂

Andy released her first album, UnFresh in 2009 and two years later, joined Prince’s New Power Generation as a singer/guitarist and worked with the legend on her sophomore album, Superconductor. That album featured a funk/soul sound and made it to #4 on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart.  She has performed on Jimmy Kimmel, Guitar Center Sessions and showed her acoustic chops on Billboard Sessions Exclusive.

In 2015, she released an EP titled, Hello, featuring 4 songs where she explored her love for pop and rock. Now having released her next project, One Step Closer EP, Andy dives deeper in to her acoustic singer-songwriter roots. Of her new project, Andy explains, “I feel like this is just the beginning of my story. It’s a journey but with every record, I feel I’m get closer to who I am as an artist and songwriter. There’s still a lot I want to share with the world.”

Check Andy’s music and film work out at Andy Allo.  Special thanks to Anita Desai for filming the interview and Sepideh Cole for loaning us the office at Pizza Express Jazz Club, where we created a fiction of a cool interview location at short notice amidst in trays, lever arch files and keyboards !! 🙂

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Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Speaking and Conference facilitation and Human Dynamics – Business and Organisation Development. Check our books out on Amazon:

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The Spirit of America

I must say I’m not a fan of America these days – For me Donald Trump has contaminated the “brand” with his mean-spirited attitudes towards building a wall, threatening wars, rolling back progress on environmental stewardship and so on.  It is a perversion of the notion of MAGA (Making America Great Again) and the whole genre of fake news … but one must never generalise, and the magazine US of America supports and celebrates the values that make America a great nation. Contemporary yet nostalgic, presenting stories from across the cultural landscape of the USA. From Alabama to Wyoming, the magazine shine a light on every US state, showcasing the weird and wonderful of everyday American life.

The 2nd edition is just out. Here the editor in chief Nicole Nodland explains what’s in store:

Our cover star Dua Lipa discusses the importance of using your voice to affect change and break boundaries. Bruce Gilden captures the resilience of the people of Detroit, while Lucas Foglia presents an utopian-like image of the prisoners of Riker’s Island. From Larry Fink’s photos at the Women’s March to Alec Soth’s reflective series on the recent election, we capture the beauty of a collective spirit in times of uncertainty.

Minnesota is this issue’s special focus. Visit the land of 10,000 lakes with us as we look at the state’s lesser known stories and pay tribute to its most famous resident, Prince. It’s just over a year since Prince left Planet Earth and his loss to the world still leaves a huge vacuum. Featuring an exclusive interview with Mayte Garcia, a feature on Ida Neilsen, his bass anchor for 6 years and a piece on the musicology of a genius.

We go bicoastal to look at California cults and Brooklyn Biker gangs. And back in time with 70’s photos of Hollywood Boulevard and the NY subway system.

Catch up with Giancarlo Esposito, Mayte Garcia, Ida Nielsen, and Amber Mark to find out about their upcoming projects. And spend time in LA’s Inglewood neighbourhood with rising stars Ill Camille, Daniel Farris, Davion Farris, Tay Walker, Kenyon Dixon, and Jeff Bernat.

Grab your copy of Us of America now.  In the meantime, here is my tribute to Prince recorded just a year ago with Meatloaf’s singing partner from “I would do anything for love” Lorraine Crosby, recorded without practice or soundcheck, so there are a few ongoing adjustments to live guitar sound levels in the first few seconds.

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock.  Author of 7.5 Books.

Photographing Princes

I met Nicole Nodland recently in the Virgin Lounge to discuss her part in the Worldwide Prince Photography Exhibition I am co-ordinating. Our close encounter provided an opportunity to discuss the art of a master photographer. Nicole has photographed a veritable treasure trove of artists including Pussy Riot, Mark Ronson, George Clinton, Anna Friel, Downton Abbey, Ed Sheeran etc. etc.

Nicole captured the heart and soul of Prince - click to view her galleries of music artist photographs

Nicole captured the heart and soul of Prince – click to view her galleries of music artist photographs

The manner of her meeting Prince was a great story of serendipity and a degree of drive on her part … Nicole had travelled to Europe and returned to LA to very little.  She moved back to Minneapolis with her mum for a bit.  Having done some photography for Warner Bros, someone suggested she get in touch with Prince.  Was this feasible?  Anyway, she did.  Some time later, one evening at 11 pm the phone rang and she was asked to go to Paisley Park.  What day? she thought.  The answer came “tonight”.  So she got ready and went.  Finding Prince in the complex was a problem but eventually a purple voice asked “Do you have polaroid?”  This was the start of her photography work with Prince lasting several years.

Do take a look at Nicole’s portfolio which spans video as well as still photography.  Here’s a few teaser pictures from her website.  Click the pictures to view the real thing. We are planning an event to cover Nicole’s work across the full range of her portfolio at Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Money Lounge in due course – watch this space.

La Roux, Mark Ronson and Sinead O'Connor

La Roux, Mark Ronson and Sinead O’Connor

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Author of 7 1/2 books on Leadership, Innovation and Creativity. Read more on Amazon.

Beauty and the Bass

Ida Nielsen spent 5 years as the bass anchor for Prince. She is now stepping out in her own right as a singer – songwriter, following Prince’s tragic and premature death. In our exclusive interview and subsequent private conversations with Ida I discussed a number of topics with parallel lessons for anyone seeking to make their mark with their personal passion. Film production by Rory Gill roryjrgill@hotmail.co.uk:

Balancing discipline and freedom

Ida is a perfect example of a professional musician who combines discipline with freedom in her musical life. She took up music at the age of 16, having learned to play piano and bass mostly by ear. She then attended the Royal Danish Academy of Music to hone her natural born musical skills. When amateur musicians tell me that improvisation is all about creativity and freedom and nothing to do with discipline, I believe they have missed the point about the importance of structure / discipline / order. I’ve observed on many occasions musicians who have oodles of disciplined musical training, but who are unable to improvise and sometimes vice versa. Ida is a living example of someone who combines both sets of skills. Prince puts it simply:

“Too much freedom can lead to the soul’s decay”

In the business world this is what Tom Peters refers to as “simultaneous tight and loose properties”. I’ve just been discussing direct parallels from music for people interested in bringing more creativity and innovation to their enterprise at Innovation Mauritius

Beauty and the Bass - Interviewing Ida Nielsen in Camden, London

Beauty and the Bass – Interviewing Ida Nielsen in Camden, London

Deliberate practice

Ida is also testimony to the concept of “deliberate practice” proposed by K. Anders Ericsson. This requires the systematic desire to extend one’s repertoire beyond one’s comfort zone. In my experience, some musicians reach a plateau of competence, due to rerehearsing that which they already know. To master an instrument requires practice outside of the known regions of your competence. I know from my own experience that I had to switch from playing rock music to gypsy jazz in order to move my playing skill up a level through seeing and hearing things anew. This concept applies in many fields of human endeavour. Ida has respected great innovators in her field and built upon their innovations, for example Larry Graham, who is credited with the invention of “slap bass playing”, in his case due to not having a drummer in his band so he had to develop a more rhythmic way of playing the instrument. 

Here’s a section of Mr Graham with Sly and The Family Stone and a bass solo from my good friend Mr Paul Moss at a corporate aftershow event we did at Henley Business School from 2 minutes 08 onwards:

Get into the Groove – Working with Flow 

Mastery, unconscious competence, effortless genius, being “in your element” …  These are all ways to describe what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called the state of ‘flow’.  Prince’s sax player Marcus Anderson offers some practical insights into the state of flow:

“Although I can read music and therefore understand the “mathematics” of jazz, the real skill of improvisation comes from using your ear / intuition, paying attention to the other band members, feeding off them and finding a flow that moves the group performance up to the max.”

Marcus Anderson, interview taken from “Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise“, Bloomsbury

Ida is clearly in the state of effortless mastery or flow with this performance, recorded at Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho, London at an aftershow at 3 am in the morning:

We spoke outside of the main interview about Ida’s 5 years spent working with Prince and she had these things to say about what she gained from working alongside a master of innovation in music:

Serendipity :

Ida explained how she got to play bass with Prince: 

“I simply got a call on my cell phone. The person said they were Prince’s manager and they wanted me to go to Minneapolis and jam with Prince and the band. They said they would call me back – they did not and I began to think it was a hoax, but eventually they called back and I went to Paisley Park to play with them for three days”. 

I completely got the mixed emotions of Ida’s story, having once had an e-mail from Sir Richard Branson telling me I had won a prize, then nothing for two weeks – a social media “expert” mailed me to say it was bound to be a hoax, completely bursting my bubble!  It turned out it was not a hoax mail and I ended up writing and delivering events for the Virgin group.

richard-branson-invite-linkedin

Mastery : When performing with Prince, Ida had to learn more than 300 songs in order to have the flexibility to vary a given performance, sometimes on the fly. This is quite different than performing with most professional musicians, who prefer to hone a set and perform this as a set piece on all dates of a tour. This level of agility gave Prince and 3rd Eye Girl the ability to personalise their music to a given audience. To do this requires mastery at the individual and team level, with everyone paying close attention to each other’s performances.

“Doing a residency in any particular city requires a large repertoire to ensure repeat business”.

Prince

Teaching as the best way to learn : Ida mused that she had been lucky to have the greatest guitar teacher on the planet in Prince. Moreover, rather than the usual situation in terms of paying your teacher for lessons, Prince had actually paid her !! The greatest gift of innovation is to transfer your skills to others to improve your game.

Check out Ida Nielsen’s music at her website for more insights into the skills of a master craftswoman.

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Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock and Human Dynamics. Check book “The Music of Business” out, which has a chapter on Prince and 3rd Eye Girl.

Charlie Mingus AOR

A tribute to Prince

Friday and Saturday 24/25 June mark a major event in memory of Prince in London and in support of Autism Rocks. Here, Marcus Anderson, Prince’s Saxophone Player talks about the event:

Here’s some of the songs and personalities you might be hearing from and meeting at this once in a lifetime event to mark the passing of a legend:

I hope to see some of you there on the Saturday gig. We are hoping to catch some interviews with the performers along the way. Here are some of the tributes left for him at Camden recently:

Prince Memorial

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Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business Development around Strategy, Innovation, Creativity and Change.

Check Peter’s new book out on innovation and creativity with Bloomsbury. Check out our full development programme for sustainable and profitable innovations.

Prince R.I.P. – Sometimes it Snows in April

That is all I can find to say … 

I wish u heaven xx

Prince Koko's

A few tributes have come in from musical friends:

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 00.44.34

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 00.44.12

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 00.40.51Prince posts:

The Prince of Innovation

3rd Eye Girl

My Tribute to Prince

George Clinton and Prince

Innovation Excellence – NYC

A post from South East Asia

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Spirits come and spirits go
Some stick around for the after show
Don’t have to say I miss you
(Don’t have to say I miss you)
‘Cause I think you already know

If you ever lose someone
Dear to you
Never say the words, they’re gone

They’ll come back, yeah
They’ll come back, yeah yeah
They’ll come back

Tears go here

PrinceI

Illustration by Martin Homent

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 09.58.09

Just Like A Woman

I’m proud to know Jordan Gray, who performed on BBC’s “The Voice” last night.  Jordan is a massive talent both in terms of her songwriting, musicality and performance.  I was privileged and humbled to share a stage with Jordan at Aaron Stone’s “Spontaneous Combustion” last year.

Here is her performance of “Just Like A Woman” on the show:

But Jordan’s superb showcase for The Voice missed out on her huge songwriting and musical talents. Just check this amazing piece “Corridors” out under her name “Tall Dark Friend“. This was one of the songs she performed at Spon Com and it blew me away even more live than the video can convey:

In case you are wondering who the singer is in the above video, Jordan made a principled decision to change gender a couple of years back. I have some understanding of the courage required to take such a decision through my good friend Hilary who also did this some years back. Hilary and I wrote a song together called “No Dick’s as Hard as my Life”, to reflect some of the abuse she took during the change. I also took a beating from some young solders in 1983, whilst walking along the high street with my best friend from school Dennis Pearce. Dennis was a flamboyantly dressed homosexual at a time when pink trousers were not considered an acceptable form of attire by some . I took the beating instead of Dennis because I had not learned to run as fast as he had … I spent several hours in hospital as a result ! 🙂 oh well … soldiers will be soldiers but it’s a pity they have to take their work home …

Coming back to the music, comparisons are invidious, but I would rank Jordan Gray alongside talents such as Prince, Lady Gaga, Paloma Faith and Sia. Her performance on The Voice was great but you cannot imagine the incredible combination of piano playing, singing, rapping, voice manipulation and performance skills that Jordan possesses just from her 3 minute showcase.

A Tall Dark Friend - click to connect with Jordan Gray

A Tall Dark Friend – click to connect with Jordan Gray

Jordan

Fade to Gray …

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Book him for your next interactive motivational keynote or longer masterclass on subjects such as Leadership, Creativity, Innovation and Change. His new book Leading Innovation and Enterprise is released on February 25th.  Order it now on Amazon.

 

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