Edy ForeyCulture TodaySo Soul Records

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UK Duo Edy Forey Releases its Audacious Urban-Jazz Debut Culture Today

Featuring Snarky Puppy’s Michael League and Bob Reynolds As Well as Sharay Reed and Femi Koleoso

“Culture Today is an auspicious debut. Like DOMi & JD Beck, siblings Tom and Laura Misch, and Butcher Brown and Hiatus Kaiyote, among others, Edy Forey reflect the jazz tradition as an urban one that stands alongside — not separate from — soul, R&B, funk, gospel, and even indie pop.” — AllMusic

“This duo mix of Edy Szewy and Guilhem Forey brings imagination, ingenuity, and improvisation to the forefront like a rainbow. This is music full of color and creativity…” — Making a Scene!

One can’t help but admire the honest audacity of these lyrics. This song “Take Your Time” is from Culture Today, Edy Forey’s poetic urban-jazz debut album set for release on April 5 on So Soul Records. The UK-based duo enters the music scene with the clarity of self-knowledge, even if that knowledge comes from divergent artistic experiences.

Vocalist Edy Szewy and keyboardist Guilhem Forey believe music is sacred and musicians matter greatly. For this reason, several guest artists joined them on this record, including founding members of Snarky Puppy bassist Michael League and saxophonist Bob Reynolds. Also, Sharay Reed, of the Funk Apostles, Femi Koleoso of the Ezra Collective and others provided significant contributions. Additionally, Bob Power whose distinguished resume includes Me’Shell N’degéocello, The Roots, D’Angelo, and Erykah Badu and many others mixed and mastered the duo’s entire album.

Szewy and Forey are as different as they are alike. Szewy was born in Poland to an American father and a Polish mother. Her parents separated early, but her dad would send her CDs from America that you couldn’t find locally. By the time she moved to one of the cultural centers of Europe, Edinburgh Scotland, she had absorbed the very American grooves of TLC and En Vogue, enthralled with the songwriting and production skills of the likes of D’Angelo and Lauryn Hill, imagining that one day she could do it too.

Conversely, Forey, born in Paris and raised in Nantes, France was a child musical prodigy. Bach spiritually and emotionally pulled him in at the age of three—so much so that this classical music was almost scary to his immature mind. But by the time his grandfather introduced him to American icon Ray Charles and British guitarist Eric Clapton, everyone who heard him play realized he was a gifted pianist. At age 11, his mom walked him into a rehearsal hall for his first jazz piano lessons. So taken was the teacher on this introductory audition, he flung his door open and quickly recruited a bassist and drummer to join in. It was the talented adolescent’s first jam session. By 16, Forey was leading a jazz trio.

The pair’s teen years were marked by Szewy discovering the melancholy soul side of African American artists like Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, and the Jacksons. In contrast, Forey dived headfirst into jazz, discovering and studying Herbie Hancock and George Duke. With headphones on, Forey would often fall asleep to Chick Corea’s Akoustic Band album. The duo’s influences were expanding–greatly. 

As young adults, both found themselves mingling in the Edinburgh student circuit. While Forey was new to the city and the music scene, Szewy was studying at the prestigious Edinburgh College of Art – the fruit of which is the album’s cover. At the same time, she was leading a six-piece neo soul band. The two met when Forey filled in for Szewy’s keyboardist. Gradually, their kinship was born.

By the same token, they openly admit to having had pervasive parental challenges. Those challenges created in both feelings of being an ‘outsider.’ As teenagers, they atypically didn’t gravitate to the surrounding fads. A sensibility of non-conformity took root for both, and in time they would discover that this sensibility would anchor their creative union.

Forey was blown away by what he says was, “Edy’s pure artistry.” Similarly, Szewy says, “By far Forey was the best musician I knew in Edinburgh.” Still, initially Forey wasn’t so convinced of becoming a group. He was deep into the spiritual magic of jazz, immersing himself with the work of master organist/pianist/gospel artist Corey Henry. He played in jazz trios but beyond that, his solitary musical world was just that–solitary. Forey says, “I love jazz because it has something to say musically. And sometimes I have to isolate to hear what it is trying to say to me.” Despite that, he couldn’t ignore that Szewy was a visionary and her sky-is-the-limit attitude won him over. Forey put all his other musical endeavors aside and their musical alliance was born.

When they started composing what would become the genesis of their debut album, they kept this activity private. The duo did not showcase their music to family nor friends. Working together and remotely via WhatsApp, they embraced a style of discreet collaboration that would come in handy during the pandemic.

As much as the pair are very modern songwriters using very modern tools, their collaborative style was reminiscent of the great songwriting teams of the past where the free spirit of exchange and pushback reaped excellent results. Their sessions were vibrant. Szewy would challenge Forey’s chord choices at the same time Forey would challenge Szewy’s lyrical and production choices. Back and forth they hashed it out, examining their creative energies and impulses all the while persisting in the magic of spontaneity, which is at the heart of their urban-jazz album.

 “We have a very symbiotic creative bond,” Szewy says. “We complement each other’s style. Basically, we’re both in each other’s business.” Forey adds, “We wanted to have a pure approach to it. We didn’t want to focus on perceived outcomes. We wanted to faithful to our original inspiration that we feel comes from above.”

That quest to fulfill their artistic calling is all over their album Culture Today. The duo has crafted a series of songs that showcase high musicality and themes of personal depth. Whether it’s the Orwellian-vibed, “Eerie Feary” or the critique against celebrity worship in “The System,” it’s clear that the original bonds of non-conformity that brought Szewy and Forey together are still very much intact.

Equally important are several songs that reach for something more transcendent. They include a poignant yet lighthearted petition to the divine in “The Fire,” while the songs “Your Soul” and “Agape” attempt to pierce the coarse, low-level of bumping and grinding to reveal the more eloquent and elevated feelings of love. This makes Culture Today an album you want to put on, lay back and let it absorb into your spirit, song by song.