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Milk & Green

Malted Milk & Toni Green at Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen on 25 November

25/11/2015 from 19:00 to 23:00

What do southern soulstress Toni Green and European soul-blues group Malted Milk have in common? The answer is simple: Milk & Green are probably the best kept secret on the rhythm & blues scene these days. But now that they’ve joined forces to record what could well become one of the most powerful albums of the decade, you can bet your bottom dollar (euro, pound…) that the news will spread like wildfire.

Once an active member of the Isaac Hayes traveling show, Memphis-born Toni Green got her start at an early age. After a stint with vocal quartet Imported Moods, she joined the roster of legendary producer Willie Mitchell. An alumnus of Andrew Love of the Memphis Horns, and a longtime cohort of Marvell Thomas, she honed her chops with Luther Ingram and the Doobie Brothers before becoming a mainstay on the New York studio scene, doing background singing for the likes of Dennis Edwards, Betty Wright, Millie Jackson, Luther Vandross, the SOS Band and Con Funk Shun. By the time Toni moved back to Memphis in the mid-90s, she was ready to record under her own name, but times were hard for pure soul artists at the height of the hip-hop era and she never really got the chance to record the album that would make a difference. Toni who was thrilled when she was offered the opportunity to work with Malted Milk on this project by producer Sebastian Danchin.

Arnaud Fradin, a powerhouse blues guitarist and strong vocalist with a killing falsetto, had all the necessary credentials for this project, having burned up the soul-blues trail from Tennessee to Florida, Paris to Amsterdam and London. By the time the present project got the green light from Nueva Onda Records, Malted Milk had turned into a war machine with plenty of funk to spare.

French producer and highly regarded music author Sebastian Danchin had been in the blues world since the mid-70’s, which he spent in the Chicago ghetto working on his doctorate and ethno-sociological study of the city’s blues scene. While in Chicago, he worked as a guitar player with many different artists, one being the blues great Little Milton, who became a very close friend. Through Milton, he became acquainted with the Memphis music scene, including legendary producer Willie Mitchell.

As the artistic director of several noted festivals in France, including the Nice Jazz Fest and the Paris Jazz Fest, Sebastian was aware of the rhythm & blues group Malted Milk. But it wasn’t until two years ago that he knew they had found the right formula. He contacted Jean Hervé Michel at Nueva Onda Booking and suggested they collaborate with Toni Green. Toni, meanwhile, listened to their music and thought they were amazing, the guys in the band thought Toni was awesome, and so began their musical relationship. Jean Hervé thought this would be a great time to launch his own Nueva Onda Records label with the project.

Toni, the guys and Sebastian got together to discuss material for the new album. Sebastian suggested several cover songs, avoiding overused songs and after 10 days in a small studio in France rehearsing, arranging, composing and writing new songs, there begun the creation of the new album ‘Milk & Green’.
After several months of intense preparation, Milk & Green met in the studio in March 2014. Recording took place over ten days at the Bonison studio, a first rate facility in the French countryside, near Nantes. On the supergroup’s agenda was a mix of covers borrowed from people as diverse as southern soul songsmith Tommy Tate, R’n’B diva Mary J. Blige, Philadelphia’s own Garnet Mimms, as well as Hi Records luminaries Syl Johnson and Ann Peebles.

The end result reflects Milk & Green’s vision of 21st century soul, a funky and bluesy mix that takes the ball rolling way beyond the retro soul sounds that have been the norm for the past few years. Judging from the reactions an explosive song like Just Call Me has gotten on the soul radio circuit in the US, or from French audiences when the band recently performed it on the Victoires du Jazz ceremony, this superlative album should be a winner upon its release this fall, allowing Malted Milk and Toni Green to tour Europe abundantly in the next few months. Several tours are already in the works, missing them on stage will be at the peril of anyone with a strong feel for contemporary soul.

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