people think of Sade as the beautiful Nigerian born lady, but Sade
is actually the whole band consisting of Stuart Matthewman (sax
and guitar), Andrew Hale (keyboards), Paul Spencer Denman (bass) and
Helen Folasade Adu (vocals).
In the early 80's Sade Adu was performing as one of
three vocalists in a promising jazz-funk collective known as Pride.
In 1984, Sade re-emerged as lead singer and principal songwriter of the
group bearing her name, accompanied by her former Pride cohorts Matthewman,
Hale and Denman. The rest -- with around 50 million albums sold worldwide --
Stuart Matthewman, Andrew Hale and Paul Denman released their first album as
"Sweetback" in 1996. The album features guest vocalist from
Leroy Osbourne, along with Maxwell and Amel Larrieux of The Groove
The Sweetback saga began in early 1994, at the end of Sade's "Love Deluxe" world tour. Stuart Matthewman returned to New York to build his own studio: He'd already begun recording and releasing a series of underground 12-inch singles under such names as Cottonbelly and Edge Test, records which were received enthusiastically in clubs from London to Los Angeles. In addition, Stuart co-wrote, produced and played on three tracks - "Welcome," "Whenever Wherever Whatever," and
"Lonely's The Only Company" - from Maxwell's acclaimed debut album, Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite.
London, Andrew Hale (through his company Deliverance) created
soundscapes for fashion shows by such leading designers as Paul
Smith and collaborated on his own music with Toshi and Kudo of noted
Japanese production team Major Force. Not content with dressing
himself as oddly as possible, Paul Denman attempted to get all of
L.A. to do likewise by opening a boutique called Goddess in
partnership with his wife.
As time passed and the Sweetback collaboration progressed, Stuart, Andrew and Paul continued to exchange
DATs, engage in protracted late-night phone calls, and visit each other's home cities. Gradually their efforts brought together a diverse array of guest performers: Groove Theory vocalist Amel
Larrieux, progressive r&b star Maxwell, Philly rap queen
Bahamadia, and Sade cohort Leroy Osbourne, each of whom takes a step beyond their own established styles on
For Leroy Osbourne, Sweetback represents a long-awaited moment in the spotlight after nearly a decade as a crucial supporting vocalist for Sade, both on stage and record.
His delicate and deeply moving rendition of the Bill Withers classic
"Hope She'll Be Happier" is the first lead vocal performance on record from this gifted singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.
No less affecting are the performances of Maxwell on "Softly Softly"; and Groove Theory's Amel Larrieux on two songs, the album opener "Gaze" and "You Will Rise." Check Andrew Hale's Fender Rhodes piano and Paul Denman's deep but restrained bass line beneath Amel's yearning lead and heavenly vocal arrangement.
On other tracks like "Chord," "Powder," and "Cloud People," Sweetback reverts to the richly atmospheric, purely instrumental album it was originally intended to be. There are echoes of trip-hop and fusion jazz, ambient dub and the natural world, all adding up to a music that's much more than the sum of its influences.
Sweetback is urban soul music that shifts freely between styles and types and rhythms and beats, yet still comes across as fresh, urgent and essential every time. Their self-produced, self-titled
debut album is music to chill, music for films, music to wind up your waist. It's global soul music with its own sense of purpose and identity.
Stewart Matthewman also produced
the 2000 Santessa album "Delirium" on the Disco Volante label. Mellow Trip-Hop with female vocals.
The latest Sweetback album "Stage 2" was released 22. June 2004. Also out
is the remix album by Stewart Matthewman aka Cottonbelly entitled
"Cottonbelly: X Amounts of Niceness - The NYC Sessions 1993-2004". The
album has been over ten years in the making and features remixes of Sade,
Maxwell and Gregory Isaacs among others. [www.cottonbelly.com]
Epic - 1996
02. Softly Softly
04. Au Natural
06. You Will Rise
Walk Of Ju
09. Hope She'll Be Happier
10. Come Dubbing
11. Cloud People
Disco Volante/Sony - 2000
03. Eyes On You
04. Best Thing
06. Too Late
09. I Be Me
Sweetback: Stage 2
Epic - 2004
01. Voodoo Breath (Master's Love)
04. All My Days With You
06. Things You'll Never Know
07. Blue Heights
08. Love Is The Word
09. Jesus Girl
10. Circus Waltz
11. Round And Round
12. Sing To Be Safe
13. Shining Hour
Leroy Osbourne is always the first to be contacted. The Londoner has provided
lead backing vocals since the Promise tour in the mid-80's. He delivered that mesmerizing
acappella introduction to the remix of "Never As Good As The First
Time" and he co-wrote with Sade "I Never Thought I'd See The
Day" for the album Stronger Than Pride. Additional line-up on the
1994 Deluxe tour; Pounding the drums was Trevor Murrell, and filling in the gaps with things that rattle and slap was percussionist Karl
Vanden Bossche. Gordon Hunte played the guitar and Rick Braun played trumpet and assisted on backing vocals.
The line-up for the 2001 Lovers Live tour and the 2011 Soldier Of Love tour
are the same; Ryan Waters (guitar), Karl Vanden Bossche (percussion), Pete
Lewinson (drums), Leroy Osbourne (backing vocals), Tony Momrelle (backing
vocals) and of course
Stuart Matthewman (guitar, sax), Andrew Hale (keyboards), Paul Denman (bass)
and Sade Adu on lead vocals.