Funk Soul Orchestral: James Brown vs Prince is a unique and exciting live music performance that celebrates the genius of the most legendary and iconic names in funk and soul music: James Brown and Prince. Conceptualised by Band Leader and Creative Director Ashton Jones and brought to life by Musical Director and Orchestral Arranger Harry Greene, their critically acclaimed debut and double sell-out show at Ronnie Scott’s was a world-class celebration of the greatest funk and soul songs ever written.
Ashton Jones joins us on Close-Up Culture to tell us more about this hit show.
Can you tell us what audiences can expect from Funk Soul Orchestral’s James Brown vs Prince?
They can expect a high-octane celebration, paying homage to the enduring legacies of James Brown and Prince. The show is a non-stop soul and funkathon presented in a unique way with an orchestra and featuring the very best talent the UK has to offer. It’s sweaty and joyful and spirited. A guaranteed crowd pleaser.
Where did the idea for this show come from?
The idea for the show came from a place of love and admiration for both James Brown and Prince, and the desire to bring their music to life in a distinctive and exciting way. We originally toyed with the notion of doing a more general legends of soul band, but I had recently performed with the BBC Concert Orchestra and came up with the idea that we could create a much more appealing and focused concept by featuring two headline legends with an orchestra. I think the immediate “wow-factor” is much stronger when you say James Brown vs Prince… oh and there’s an orchestra!
The show celebrates the genius of the most legendary and iconic names in funk and soul music, James Brown and Prince. What do these two artists mean to you?
For us, both James Brown and Prince represent so much more than just music. They’re trailblazers and icons epitomising the very best in showmanship, performance and musicality. Not only that, their contributions to pop culture in-general are immeasurable. It’s just two of the coolest dudes, doing things their own way and creating the blueprint for everyone else. They’re legends in every sense of the word.
Can you tell us about your dynamic with musical director/composer Harry Greene?
Harry Greene is one of my best mates. Not only is he as passionate about James Brown and Prince as I am, but he’s an incredibly talented and versatile musician who brings a wealth of experience in both playing and music arranging. We’re long-time collaborators who recognise each other’s strengths and weaknesses, so there was no better person to team up with to take on this mission. We’re a well-oiled machine. Plus, it means we have lots of excuses to go and eat at nice restaurants while discussing “business”.
The show had a critically acclaimed debut and double sell-out at Ronnie Scott’s. What is your vision for the future of the show?
Our vision for the future of the show is to take it to even greater heights and to reach as many people as possible. Venue shows like Ronnie Scott’s are incredible, we turned that place into a cauldron, but we also think the show is perfectly suited to festivals, so we want to continue to bring the music of James Brown and Prince to audiences all over the world, creating unforgettable experiences for everyone who comes to see the orchestra perform.
I understand you were recently asked to contribute to a brand-new Disney soundtrack. Can you reveal anything about that?
That was Hazza’s thing. I asked him about it and unfortunately he said he’s under the lock and key of an embargo, so he’ll have to let you know the juicy Disney goss at a later date.
What are your earliest memories of falling in love with performing?
Singing “Walking in The Air” in my first school play (I was the Snowman). I used to regularly perform in school shows and it wasn’t long before I knew it was something I wanted to pursue. After that, laying in bed dreaming of James Brown and what it would be like to perform in a show like his. That helped foster my commitment to the energy and excitement of live performance. It’s addictive.
What are your dreams and ambitions for the future?
Well, luckily Harry and I are both very busy writing, recording and performing, so there’s plenty of that in the pipeline. But away from that, I think it’s also important to focus on the things that really make you happy, and Funk Soul Orchestral is one of those. It’s a passion project that we feel has huge potential, so we hope to be able to bring that to more people all over the world. To inspire, to entertain and to enrich. That’s the dream.
Read our five star review of Funk Soul Orchestral’s James Brown VS Prince