By Martine Ehrenclou
Dutch saxophonist, Candy Dulfer is a solo artist, a singer-songwriter, an in-demand instrumentalist, a co-writer and collaborator who has worked with some of the biggest names in modern music. Those include Van Morrison, Prince, Maceo Parker, Sheila E., Mavis Staples, Lionel Richie, Beyoncé, Pink Floyd, Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin, and many others. Dulfer first rose to fame with her high-profile collaboration with Dave Stewart on the worldwide number one smash “Lily Was Here.”
Candy Dulfer’s tenure with Prince continued over the years with many studio sessions, TV show appearances, award show performances, including the Grammy Awards, and concert tours around the globe, including Candy joining Prince’s NPG band as a permanent member for his record-shattering Musicology tour and album.
In addition to her superstar collaborations, Candy is a serious lifelong musician with a robust history as a solo artist releasing albums and touring the world for over 35 years. Since her Grammy-nominated debut, 1990’s Saxuality, Candy has released 12 studio albums. The combined world-wide sales of her solo albums top 2.5 million copies, and she has had several number one hits in the USA.
Born and raised in the Netherlands, her father Hans Dulfer is a noted jazz saxophonist who exposed Candy to many great jazz musicians early on.
Dulfer’s recent release We Never Stop features Grammy winner Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers (Madonna, David Bowie, Daft Punk, Lady Gaga) and bass legend Marcus Miller (Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, Herbie Hancock, Dr. John, Donald Fagen, Bill Withers, George Benson.) It’s a blast of party funk and jazz. It’s Candy’s salute to all the musicians who had their livelihoods leveled in the wake of the pandemic. It’s a fun and funky tribute to resilience.
Candy and I spoke by Zoom from her home in the Netherlands.
I shared with Candy that I love her new album We Never Stop and mentioned that it seemed like a bit of a collective with different vocalists along with her own vocals and superb sax playing. Each member, including Candy, gets their time in the spotlight and shares songwriting and collaborative musicianship.
Dulfer described the stop-start writing and recording process during the pandemic lockdowns but that they finally wrote the songs and started performing in countries that opened up at different times. “At one point,” Candy said, “it was difficult to get anything done (social isolation) but we did and I think it sounds great. It sounds very organic to me.”
When she and her band started playing the songs live from We Never Stop as the countries started opening up, it was before the record was released. Candy confessed, “Normally, when you play new songs that nobody knows, fans don’t really like it. But people went crazy, especially for certain songs. That gave us such a boost.” She continued. “It’s just amazing. I’ve never had such good reactions from the audience to material they didn’t even know. We must have done something right somewhere.”
Dulfer also said that We Never Stop is a personal album, personal for everyone struggling with many of the same things. “The main spirit of this music is to elevate.” She added that it’s never been more important to not overthink and just get out of a funk. “It felt important to bring good vibes. We just wanted to make people happy, to give people hope and get their minds off stuff.”
She delved into her commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement and her inclusivity with her band “that includes all nations, religions, colors and cultures.”
I mentioned her song “Mo’ Seats At The Table” and the theme of welcoming everyone.
Dulfer explained that the writing process for the album was also inclusive. “I’ve always loved that Rainbow Nation feeling. It was beautiful for me to see when I was a young girl when Sly Stone did it. He had a sister on the Hammond organ. He had Larry on the bass and everybody with all colors, all styles, singing together. That had a huge meaning for me when I was a young child.”
“Prince was the same way,” she said. “He paved the way also for having female musicians, all colors, all nationalities.” Candy shared how working with different musicians who all dipped from the same musical well would get together and that the jam was almost innate.
I asked her if it was like that when she toured, recorded and performed with Prince.
She said it was. “He was surprised when I first played with him for the time when I was 17.” She explained that her father Hans Dulfer’s musical knowledge, especially of jazz, rubbed off on her. “When I came to Prince, I wasn’t that great but I had a vast knowledge of jazz. I knew that once you get Prince’s attention, you had to work to keep it. I was such a fan of his, of Sheila E. too.” She admitted that working with Prince opened a lot of doors for her in her music career.
I asked her about performing with saxophone great Maceo Parker.
Candy said, “I knew Maceo maybe 10 years before Prince.” She shared that Maceo invited her to play with him when James Brown was in prison and he and the band toured the world. She admitted that she and Parker became friends. She added that when she was at Paisley Park with Prince, Prince asked her who her favorite sax players were. Candy told him, “Charlie Parker and of course Maceo Parker.”
There’s plenty of Prince influence on Dulfer’s album We Never Stop. I asked if he was a big influence on her music.
“Yeah, especially his sense of rhythm. We did a Prince tribute on a previous album and I couldn’t have done that without (Dutch male vocalist) Ivan Peroti. It felt sacred to do that,” she said.
A high-energy performer, Candy Dulfer shared what she loves most about performing live with her band and other musicians. “You can see it in the audience how much they love the music. That’s really the purpose of having people at a concert, so they can relax. Body, soul and mind. They need to clear their heads.” Continuing she said, “It’s the same thing I get from other people’s performances. I want to be touched. I want to hear beautiful stuff. The thing I love most is that (performing live) gives me energy throughout the day. When I notice that I’ve touched people in their hearts, that’s just beautiful.”
“What’s coming up for you?”
Candy said, “I’ve just recorded with Cory Wong, a live recording. For the Fearless Flyers. Cory is amazing,. He’s bringing instrumental music to young kids. He’s from Minneapolis.”
Candy Dulfer is not only a superb sax player, but she genuinely supports young talented artists. She puts on shows called ‘Candy’s Choice,’ a funk, soul and jazz show with her personal musical picks. “I really think it’s my job to pay it forward.”
For more information on Candy Dulfer see HERE
Listen to “Say Something” HERE