Review: Those who've studied Tony Allen's distinctive drumming style often cite Art Blakey as an influence, so it's little surprise to find him paying tribute to the legendary jazz drummer on this superb album. Joined by his regular band, Allen covers a quartet of tracks written and recorded by Blakey and his band, the Jazz Messengers. The results are predictably impressive, with Allen's loose and polyrhythmic percussion providing a rock solid foundation for the horns, piano and double bass that sits atop. It's naturally closer to all-out jazz than to Afrobeat, but still bristles with the kind of punchy horns and life-affirming playing that characterizes Allen's work. "Thunder Suite", in which Allen drops a number of sweaty drum solos, is particularly potent.
Review: Since it was first released in the collective's native Brazil in 1978, the self-titled debut album from Guilherme Coutinho E O Groupo Stalo has become a sought-after item amongst collectors of Latin jazz. This reissue - the first of any kind - proves why. Offering a mixture of samba-soaked Latin jazz rhythms, sweet vocals, spacey analogue synthesizer sounds, Azymuth style electric piano motifs, MPB style songwriting and Brazilian jazz-funk stylistic tropes, it's a joyously sunny and quirkily off-kilter affair that impresses from start to finish. Production wise it's a little loose and fuzzy round the edges, but that only adds to the album's obvious allure. Recommended!
Review: Over the last 12 months, Adrian Younge and A Tribe Called Quest member Ali Shaheed Muhammad have been inviting some legendary musicians to swing by the former's Los Angeles studio to make fresh tracks with vintage equipment. The results are detailed on "Jazz Is Dead", a superb album that combines elements of dusty soundtrack jazz, soul, jazz-funk, Latin jazz and head-nodding live beats influenced by the duo's hip-hop roots. Highlights include the atmospheric, slow-motion warmth of Roy Ayers collaboration "Hey Lover", the floor-rocking fusion heaviness of epic Azymuth hook-up "Apocaliptico", the languid sweetness of 'Down Deep" (featuring Doug Carn) and the samba-soaked sunshine that is Marcos Valle composition "Nao Saia Da Praca".
Chatanooga Choo Choo/Don't Be That Way/Tributo A Martin Luther King (3:08)
Pourquoi/Arrasta A Sandalia/Morena, Boca De Ouro/Rosa Morena (7:42)
Birthday Morning/Can't Take My Eyes Off You (2:59)
O Dialogo (2:22)
Review: Pianist Luis Carlos Vinhas first rose to prominence during the height of Brazil's bossa-nova movement in the early 1960s. By the middle of the decade, he was releasing albums under his own name, and in 1968 delivered what would become his most colourful and exciting set: the effervescent Latin jazz psycehedelia of "O Som Psicodelico de Luiz Carlos Vinhas". As richly detailed and vivid as its accompanying cover art, the set still stands up all these years on - as this essential Mad About Records reissue proves. Backed by a big band, a guitarist with tons of effects pedals and recordings of Amazonian wildlife, the pianist delivered a set of tropical jazz/psychedelic samba fusion that sounds every bit as hallucinatory now as it did way back in 1968. In a word: essential.
Review: The alwayshara working Soul Jazz team are back with another of their vital compilations, this time an overview of the many great contemporary jazz artists who have reinvigorated the scene in recent years. Matthew Halsall, Yazmin Lacey, Ill Considered, Tenderlonious, Theon Cross, Emma-Jean Thackray and plenty of others all feature. What they have in common is a desire to explore cross-genre styles and spiritual sounds that are all either self-published or have been put out by small indie labels. It makes for an experimental album with plenty of uplifting and soulful moments that prove just how rich the scene is right now.
Review: It's not hard to see why Reggie Andrews & The Fellowship's "Mystic Beauty" is a holy grail record for jazz lovers that has long been unavailable and often fetches four digit prices on second hand markets. A earthy, stunning set of modal soul jazz from the LA underground of the 60s brimming with glowing piano chords and mellifluous keys drifting next to lilting trumpets and gently swaying drums, with the overtness of Afro-Cuban rhythms and Latin sunshine. Whether it's spiritual-jazz, soul-jazz, jazz-funk, none quite capture the musical beauty of this most profound and life-enriching album, which is so masterfully led by pianist Reggie Andrews.
Review: When she started her career just over a decade ago, Cleopatra Nikolic AKA Cleo Sol was considered a singer-for-hire within the international deep house community. Now, with the assistance of beat-maker Inflo, she's decided to strike out on her own via a quietly impressive solo debut that re-casts her as a genuinely fresh and exciting soul talent. Beginning with the layered acapella vocals and deep, jazzy grooves of stunning opener "One Love", the album sees her brilliantly deliver heartfelt and thoughtful lyrics over hazy backing tracks that brilliantly join the dots between jazz, neo-soul and R&B. While she's undoubtedly the star of the show, Inflo's stripped-back, partially acoustic and largely soft-focus production is also worthy of high praise.
Review: Soul Jazz Records' new must-have compilation "Kaleidoscope" does a great job in celebrating the vibrancy of the UK's fast-growing contemporary jazz scene. For some reason the vinyl version of the release omits the two tracks featured here, hence the label offering them up on a limited-edition 12" single that they say will never be repressed or reissued. The A-side features Sons of Kemet member (and renowned tubist/trombonist) Theon Cross's "Candace of Meroe", a bustling affair that riffs on the polyrhythmic Afrobeat sound of Tony Allen and Fela Kuti whilst taking it in a decidedly jazzier new direction. Over on the flip psychedelically inclined duo Pokus delivers "Pokus 1", a wonderfully low-slung and spaced-out affair that adds mind-altering, mutilated electric piano motifs to a deliciously weighty, low-slung groove.
Review: Those well-versed in New York jazz should recognise all of the musicians involved in this delightfully mystical collaborative album, as all have been active since the 1970s or early '80s. For the uninitiated, the all-star "supergroup" behind "Welcome Adventure" is made up of legendary drummer Gerald Cleaver, woodwind and brass master Daniel Carter (tenor sax, trumpet, flute), bassist Willian Parker and pianist William Parker. The resultant music is mostly magical, with highlights including the joyous, ever-building excitement of opener "Majestic Travel Energy" (a whirlwind of jaunty sax lines, bright piano solos, frisky drums and undulating double bass), and epic flipside cut "Ear-regularities" (an (at times) discordant and dystopian free-jazz number that rewards those who play close attention.
Review: NuNorthern Soul take a brief respite from their BJ Smith series so boss man 'Phat' Phil Cooper can indulge his love for Ryo Kawasaki. Focusing on the period that the '70s met the '80s, Selected Works pulls together five delicious slices of Kawasaki bliss from a boundary pushing discography that spans writing, arranging, producing and playing. For an introduction to Kawasaki, this release is near perfect, taking in sublime jazz through heaving slabs of funk to out-there electronic vibes. Extra context is provided in the extensive sleeve notes from Marc Rowlands that pull from his 2015 interview with Kawasaki. Despite being five tracks long, this still feels like a generous rifle through the Ryo archives.
Review: Initially recorded and released in low numbers in 1974, the Boillat Therace Quintet's debut album is a sought-after item amongst collectors of European jazz. Happily, it has now been given the reissue treatment by Geneva's We Release Jazz, with the Swiss combo's original six-track set being expanded via the addition of three previously unreleased tracks recorded during the same period. While these are good - particularly their slick and emotive version of Herbie Hancock's "Dolphin Dance" - it's the original set, with its heady, vibrant and surprisingly funky fusion of modal and soul-jazz sounds, that hits home hardest. It's a terrific album all told and one that you should definitely check out.
Review: It seems fitting that Switzerland's We Release Jazz is reissuing the Boillat Therace Quintet and Benny Bailey's rare 1973 set "My Greatest Love", because it's undeniably one of the most sought-after sets in the Swiss jazz canon. The six tracks touch on modal, hard-bop and soul-jazz, combining traditional acoustic jazz instrumentation with electric piano, guitar and bass. As a result, the album is warm, breezy and intoxicating, with highlights including frenetic opener "Prompt", a stunning, energetic and Latin-tinged cover of Freddy Hubbard's "Gilbraltar", and the simmering, loved-up wonder that is the sublime title track. Closing cut "Gemini", a jaunty, flute-laden affair with a particularly addictive bassline, is also superb.
Review: It may not be one of Idris Muhammad's most celebrated albums, but "Kabsha" is arguably one of the most notable. For starters, the rollcall of musicians featured on the 1980 release is incredibly impressive, with Art Farmer collaborator Ray Drummond on Drums and George Coleman (once a member of Max Roach's regular band) and Pharoah Sanders taking it in turn to showcase their tenor saxophone skills. Musically, it sees the drummer and his distinguished guests offer up a fine selection of post-bop treats. Highlights include the bustling, loose-limbed brilliance of opener "GCCG Blues", the unshakeable energy of "St M" - which includes a series of virtuoso drum solos by Muhammad - and the fizzing joy that is closing cut "Little Feet".