by Tamara Anderson
Born in Trinidad, Kenny ArtnSoul Lashlee has been living in Germantown for nearly 20 years. He is the host of Soul City Music Arts and Poetry, an open mic featuring a soulful house band. This bi-monthly event occurs the second and fourth Friday of every month from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. at La Rose Jazz Club/Restaurant, 5531 Germantown Ave. This multi-generational environment is “an artistic family-friendly event featuring an eclectic variety of artists supported by the arts community.”
The acts are asked to refrain from profanity and sexual overtones. “If a guitarist wants to play my guitar, he is welcome to do so,” said Kenny, who describes his sound as a convergence of pop, rock, soul, R & B, and hip-hop with an acoustic or full-band sound. “Think of Prince meets India Arie and Music Soulchild.”
Kenny ArtnSoul got started in the Philly music scene at the October Gallery, 6353 Greene St., with its open mic known for featuring such homegrown talent as Jill Scott from 2001 to 2004 as a soul artist. “I was born to do it, and I love it,” said Kenny, who is proficient on guitar, bass and piano. He started playing guitar at the age of 13 when “my mom bought me drums and a keyboard.”
Initially, he was a visual artist until “the music took over.” Kenny has written over 45 songs since 2001. His professional credits include being a studio musician for Sounds of Blackness, and he played guitar on the track “If You Really Want to Go” by No Question, released Nov. 22, 2005. “Hearing a song that you were a part of while walking in a supermarket is surreal.”
Kenny graduated from Germantown High School 15 years ago, and he attended Hyles-Anderson College in Hammond, Indiana, to study pastoral theology. “But I soon realized my calling was to minister through secular music.” Church was very instrumental in his personal, spiritual and musical development. He is the middle child with an older brother and younger sister.
Nearly a decade ago, Kenny founded Destiny Music and Art Studio in Germantown. He now teaches music lessons (piano, guitar, bass and voice) there to students aged 8 to 88. “When you love what you do, you can do it for fun,” said Kenny, whose musical influences include but are not limited to Jimi Hendrix, the Isley Brothers, Stevie Wonder, Jill Scott and the neo-soul movement.
After leaving October Gallery and his work as a studio musician, he wanted to “get out of the background and start singing and writing songs as a solo artist.” In 2004, Kenny organized his first event at Well Grounded Café, then at 3720 Midvale Ave. in East Falls “The owner asked me to perform, and no one was there, but soon I built a loyal following and a successful event.” In 2006 and 2007 he performed several “hot events that always had a packed house.”
Kenny is currently working on a CD with the expected release date of 2014. “I’m a perfectionist and want to make sure the production quality is correct before debuting it.” The first Soul City Music Arts and Poetry was in 2007 at Common Ground on Wayne and Washington Lane. The musical venue unfortunately closed in August of 2012, and the open mic relocated briefly to Wired Beans Café in Germantown until it also closed in June of this year.
Audiences and artists have remained loyal, however, and will undoubtedly be attending performances at their new location, La Rose Jazz Club, which began last Friday at 7:30 p.m. (free admission). Poets, musicians, dancers, actors, singers, hip-hop artists and visual artists are welcome.
According to Suzanne Cloud, one of Philly’s best jazz writers and performers, “The Sunday evening jam sessions led by drummer Rob Henderson and jazz promoter Kim Tucker at the La Rose Jazz Club for the past two years are the epitome of the playful re-enactment of traditional rites of passage between the young and the old, the neophyte and the old head, the apprentice and the master, the eager and the cautious. La Rose has that homey Philly feel to it that says, ‘Come on in and play.’
“La Rose is an incubator for jazz babies who hunger to learn about playing music for a living, and at this special place they learn it from the likes of Philly mainstays such as bassist Mike Boone, formerly with the Buddy Rich band; bassist Steve Beskrone, an alumnus of the Pat Martino band; pianist Orrin Evans, featured in a recent issue of JazzTimes; and more importantly, celebrated drummers 86-year-old Earl Curry (who regularly played with Coleman Hawkins and Billie Holiday) and 91-year-old Charlie Rice (a veteran of Louis Jordan’s band and the Chet Baker Quartet).”
For more information about the shows at La Rose, call 215-844-5818.