Music News & Reviews

Dwele headlines inaugural Fresno Jazz and Soul Festival

Dwele, real name, Andwele Gardner, is an emerging voice in the neo-soul movement.

The Grammy nominated singer-songwriter has collaborated with hip-hop heavy weights like Kanye West. He sang on West’s 2007 track “Flashing Lights” and 2010’s “Power” (off “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”) and released a half-dozen albums.

He headlines the inaugural Fresno Jazz and Soul Festival, Saturday, April 18, at the African American Historical & Cultural Museum with locals Jeanette Harris, Ray Moore, Espacio, Keysha and Viper City Brass Band.

We spoke to the Michigan native in advance of the festival. Here’s what we found out.

• While he is

heavily influenced by soul music from the ’70s and ’80s (guys like Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye), Dwele enjoys contemporary hip-hop and pop music.

“When I’m hanging out with my people and I’m going to the club, I’m probably not going to be listening to Marvin Gaye,” he says.

• His music blends current elements of hip-hop, jazz, pop and electronic music. It is the definition of neo-soul, though Dwele wouldn’t classify what he does as such.

“It’s just soul music,” Dwele says. “If it were up to me.”

Still, the singer won’t argue being included with artists like Jill Scott, Bilal and Erykah Badu. “If I have to be included with those greats, I’m happy with it,” he says.

• Though Dwele didn’t have much formal music training, he plays and records everything on his albums. That includes live instruments like keyboards (he particularly like the sound of the Fender Rhodes), Flugelhorn and trumpet. He can also play guitar and bass, but he doesn’t trust his skills.

“I wouldn’t be comfortable getting on stage with a guitar,” he says.

• He’s never been that comfortable working with others, even though he got his start singing hooks for the Detroit hip-hop group Slum Village.

“Growing up I always did music for myself, by myself,” he says.

• His writing process starts with just a beat box and a keyboard.

• He worked with late J. Dilla, the legendary hip-hop who works with artists like Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, The Roots and Common.

Dwele says he learned so much just by watching Dilla’s process.

“It was good to see him work,” he says. “I’ve never known anyone to work an MPC ( sampler/sequencer) like he did.”