Review: They may not have released many records, but samba/soul/jazz fusionists the Han Litz group have been mainstays of the Dutch scene for a decade. Here they return with a wonderfully breezy, samba-soaked collection of cuts that's remarkably their first ever outing on wax. The A-side begins with two warm, afternoon fresh tracks that sound like authentic Brazilian samba jams from the 1970s, before Litz and company indulge in a little flute-heavy jazz ("Preludia") and Afro-tinged broken beat/jazz fusion ("Yemaya Olodo"). Also impressive is closing cut "Epiphany", which has been transformed by Yoruba Soul man Osunlade into a sumptuous shuffle through deep house/samba fusion complete with Flamenco style Spanish guitar solos.
Shine On Through (feat Mountain & Karina Ramage) (4:11)
Kosa (feat Keeno) (5:58)
The Encounter (feat Bop) (5:40)
Miles Ahead (feat DJ Marky) (4:11)
Morning Sunrise (feat Danny Wheeler, G Force & Blu James) (4:55)
Tokyo '96 (feat SPY) (5:24)
Show Me How You Feel (feat Lorna King) (4:52)
Dive (feat Polaris) (5:42)
Liberta (feat Urbandawn) (4:34)
Living For (feat Paul T & Edward Oberon) (5:28)
Transparent (feat Whiney) (4:57)
Mystic Crystals (feat Technimatic) (5:16)
Nexus (feat Pola & Bryson) (4:13)
Merchant Blessing (feat MC Conrad) (4:31)
Review: Makato is often cited as one of the pioneering founders of Japan's drum & bass scene. He's now up to his sixth studio album and it finds his airy, rolling, sweet flowing beats all present and correct. "Tomodachi Sessions" derived from a series of collaborations with close friends who have all played a part in his 25 year career. DJ Marky, S.P.Y, Bop and MC Conrad all feature and lend their own personalities to an album that offers celebratory hands in the air tracks like "Shine On Through" next to more late night dancers like "Transparent" and melodic explorations like "Show Me How You Feel".
Review: Since he released his first album 11 years ago, bandleader, trumpeter and composer Matthew Halsall has proved to be one of British jazz's standout talents. In recent years he's delved into soul-jazz and big band jazz territory, so it's intriguing to find that "Oneness" is a much more spiritual, pared-down and minimalistic affair. Using a mixture of droning Indian instrumentation, languid and leisurely harp motifs, selective horn solos, melancholic trumpet lines and occasional traditional jazz instrumentation, Halsall has conjured up a series of meditative pieces that count among his most beguiling works to date. It may surprise a few listeners, but many more will find it enchanting, otherworldly and emotion-rich.
A Strong Move For Truth (feat Nadine Charles) (3:19)
Good Morning (feat Samii) (2:40)
Remini Dream (feat Ivana Santilli) (3:46)
I Don't Wanna Know (feat Obenewa) (3:21)
Unknown Faults (3:59)
Life Can Be Unreal (feat Sarina Leah) (3:26)
Too Much (feat Sharlene Hector) (1:58)
You Are Virgo (5:05)
Come Of Age (3:28)
Just Leave It (feat Lady Alma) (4:52)
Ogawa Okasan Said Just Play (4:45)
A Where Pringle Deh? (2:14)
My Standards Are (Not) Too High (8:40)
Review: In our eyes, 2000 Black lynchpin Dego can do no wrong. You'll therefore be unsurprised to hear that we're huge fans of the 4Hero founder member's latest solo album, a belated follow-up to 2015's "The More Things Stay The Same". It is, of course, superbly soulful, slicky produced and wonderfully paced, moving from the heady soul sweetness of "A Strong Move For Truth", to the deep jazz-funk/broken beat vibes of "My Standards Are (Not) Too High" via 12 other warm and seductive cuts of an equally high standard. Highlights include the summery bruk-soul bliss of "Remini Dream", the toasty boogie revivalism of "Unknown Faults" and the Clavinet-sporting brilliance of Lady Alma hook-up "Just Leave It".
Yellow Dandelion (feat Georgia Anne Muldrow) (5:05)
Gnawa Sweet (6:03)
Icy Roads (Stacked) (4:17)
(To) Know Where You're Comin From (5:41)
The Leo & Aquarius (feat Jehst) (6:49)
You Didn't Care (feat Nubya Garcia) (5:12)
Self: Love (feat Obongjayar) (6:23)
Review: Joe Armon-Jones has been a driving force in the resurgence of contemporary jazz and now makes something of a victory lap with this new album on the always essential Brownswood. It's a very modern mix of bass and dub, du jour club culture and his own jazz styles featuring peers like Moses Boyd and Nubya Garcia. Frankly, the whole record is silky, starry-eyed and sublime and the excellent artwork also hist at the cosmic subtleties of this album, but our picks of the bunch are the neo-soul, summery stroll through the park vibes of "Yellow Dandelion", "Gnawa Sweet" which glows with mellifluous Rhodes chords and the uncompromising yet accessible sax and big brass action of album highlight "You Didn't Care".
Between The Lines (feat Keyon Harrold & Sparkz) (4:42)
Introspection (feat Theo Croker) (5:00)
Cranes (In The Sky) (5:47)
I Still Believe (feat Milton Suggs) (5:41)
Elipsis (interlude) (1:07)
Dark Honey (4TheStorm) (feat Makaya McCraven) (5:48)
Pressure (instrumental) (4:41)
Lullaby (Rise & Shine) (feat Judi Jackson) (3:55)
Battle (feat Binker & Moses) (4:32)
The Mighty (feat Ben Marc) (3:31)
Review: South London pianist and composer Ashley Henry is a versatile musician who can move between all niches within his musical realm: hip hop, broken beat, jazz and fusion flows from his finger tips and all characterise his expansive and expressive new album "Beautiful Vinyl Hunter". Stellar collaborators Makaya McCraven, Judi Jackson and MC Sparkz amongst others all help enrich this album as it flows from post-bop to classic jazz to neo-soul in thrilling fashion. Rooted in tradition but with a distinctly London edge that soars to new heights, this record sets a new benchmark for the contemporary scene.
Review: Narrowing down Melbourne band Mildlife's style into a genre is almost impossible, as they bond over the desire to push musical boundaries. No strangers to the local band scene, these four longtime friends have been drawing crowds through an epic journey at intimate venues and festivals for the best part of four years. Developing a dynamic live show centered around wild improvisation, they have left punters itching for their first full length studio album. Their debut entitled Phase captures the spirit of their performances, with six tracks that are a kaleidoscope of jams is the interplanetary path between jazz, funk and disco, The perfect amalgamation of cosmic electronics and soulful acoustic instrumentation.
Review: Om Unit takes it to the bridge once again. His label's first V/A collection since its evergreen "Cosmology Selections" in 2017, it's another vast plain ripe in sonic depths and textures from some of the most left-minded, boundary-fusing captains in the bass game. Featuring two crucial link-ups from the bossman himself with two kindred spirits Djrum and Synkro plus a whole cosmic cornucopia of voyages from the likes of Danny Scrilla, J:Kenzo, Vromm and stacks more, every track is a highlight in its own beguiling way. No label flares with the same level of dark vitality, there's more than enough for our brains to chew on right here.
Igor Zhukovsky & MRR Drumetrics - "Pongtron" (1:36)
Kinny - "Water For Chocolate" (feat Souldrop) (3:43)
Magic In Threes - "Measly Peace" (3:10)
Kazumi Kaneda - "Uncertain" (3:24)
Twit One - "Tibb's Nightmare" (3:04)
Review: DJ Oonops is back by popular demand. After the first volume of his Oonops Drops compilation got snapped up by lovers of exotic sounds, he returns with a second edition that is just as jam packed with heat from the worlds of dub, funk, soul, jazz and beats. Some artists will be known to reoccur diggers, some are brand new, but they all come correct. The well sequenced selection sinks you deep into swaggering dub, raises your spirits with some great flute playing and invites you into some subterranean jazz lounge, amongst many other things. This is the sort of shortcut collection that allows you to show off to friends after someone else has done all the hard work.
WAKE (For Grenfell) (feat Cherise Adams-Burnett) (9:07)
Stargaze #2: LAU (2:04)
Interplanetary Migration (feat Mr Ekow) (7:04)
Review: Jazz Re:freshed has a reputation for championing rising stars of British jazz, so it's little surprise to find the label releasing the debut album from SEED Ensemble, a ten-piece outfit led by saxophonist Cassie Kinoshi. And what a debut it is, too. Built around uniquely British twists on spiritual and uplifting jazz, the eight original compositions are beautifully written and performed. The handful of included vocal numbers boast politically charged lyrics that take aim at injustice and inequality, with "WAKE (for Grenfell)" standing out. It feels like an important record as much as an enjoyable one, and could well be the start of a very bright future for both Kinoshi and the SEED Ensemble.
Benedict Cumberbatch - "Flat Of Angels" (part 3 - exclusive Spoken Word piece)
Review: Given his impeccable downtempo credentials, you'd expect Bonobo's Late Night Tales mix to be one of the finer installments in the series (and that's saying something). Predictably, it is. Sweet, sensual and atmospheric, with plenty of unlikely gems and forgotten classics for the heads to enjoy, it surprises and impresses with each successive track. This vinyl edition features 17 of the tracks unmixed (naturally) and lifts out many highlights. His own cover of Donovan's "Get Thy Bearings" is particularly revelatory - string drenched, hazy, atmospheric and, of course, immaculately produced - but there are many other gems. Check Darondo's classic heart breaker "Didn't I," the smoky reggae-soul of Nina Simone's "Baltimore", and the enveloping intimacy of Shlohmo's "Places". Do seek out Benny Cumberbatch's spoken word turn at the end too! (mp3 download code for the full release included).
Shared Stories Of Rivals (Keita) (feat Saul Williams) (4:38)
Forevergirl (feat Chris Turner & Mike Larry Draw) (5:37)
Diviner (Devan) (3:48)
Songs She Never Heard (feat Logan Richardson) (5:56)
Ritual (Rise Of Chief Adjuah) (6:00)
Before (feat Elena Pinderhughes) (6:15)
Double Consciousness (3:52)
Ancestral Recall (feat Saul Williams) (6:08)
Review: New Orleans trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah returns with his first album in almost two years, an essential set of spiritually conscious Afro-jazz that wraps his bold, mesmerizing and memorable trumpet solos around a variety of skittish tribal rhythms, Mariachi style horn riffs, soulful vocal arrangements and 21st century jazz instrumentation. It's a unique and thoroughly absorbing signature sound, with the assembled guests - most notably Saul Williams, Elena Pinderhughes and Logan Richardson - adding much to Scott aTunde Adjuah's intoxicating sound soup. Highlights come thick and fast throughout, from the slow burn soundscape of "Diviner (Devan)" and wonderfully percussive "Ritual (Rise Of Chief Adjuah)", to the intergalactic drowsiness of "Prophecy" and breezy "Double Consciousness".
Review: Is there a more genuinely eclectic producer than Kalbata operating right now? We certainly can't think of one. Over the last decade and a half he's turned his hand to everything from dub, techno, dubstep and electro to Balearic beats, downtempo grooves and inspired musical fusions that simply cannot be categorized. His latest excursion - made in cahoots with five-piece Israeli band Tigris -falls into the latter category, offering up a brilliant blend of African and Caribbean rhythms, Turkish psych-funk organ solos, off-kilter electronics, wavy ambient chords and glistening guitars. It's hard to accurately describe but brilliantly produced and hugely entertaining. Don't sleep on this one!
Review: Since launching a few years back, Matthew Halsall's Gondwana Records has released some terrific albums from a string of talented but often little-known artists. This brilliant set is another. It comes from Hania Rani, a pianist, composer and producer better known for her collaborative work with the likes of Christian Loffler, Dobrawa Czocher and Hior Chronik. "Esja" is Rani's solo debut and sees her sashay between atmospheric, often poignant pieces that put her impeccable piano playing at the heart of the action. It's exceedingly elegant and picturesque, with Rani's subtle use of field recordings and crackling background noise only enhancing the listening experience.
Review: Tenderlonious' prolific explorations of contemporary jazz continue unabated with this new album from his supergroup, Ruby Rushton. With Mo Kolours and Yussef Dayes (formerly of Yussef Kamaal) amongst the highly skilled players in this ensemble, the quality spilling out of their fourth album need not be questioned. The band leader's signature flute stylings skip and twirl across the top of the music, with the overall brew striking that elusive but oh-so-sweet balance between loose, free-wheeling expression and rock solid groove. Fresh and satisfying at every turn, this is proof of why the modern jazz scene is so vibrant right now. Ruby Rushton can do no wrong!
Review: After the game-changing success of his debut album, "Timeless", Goldie could have easily repeated the same trick and cashed in. Instead, he went completely the opposite direction and indulged himself in an hour long orchestral symphony (many years before the current trend for such shows became a thing). Collaborations with Noel Gallagher (the vulnerable "Temper Temper"), personal tracks that address his mother, and a long lost suicide note. Musically, the now 21 year old "Saturnz Return" is mostly dark and broody jungle that will re-wire your brain, though "Digital" and "Fury - The Origin" offer moments of soaring beauty.
Review: Given his impressive track record, hopes are naturally high for Bonobo's sixth album, Migration, which is his first full-length since 2013. Happily, it's a majestic affair, with the producer delivering another sumptuous set of tracks. It was partly inspired by an extended period musing on the nature of personal identity, and the role that nationality plays in that. This concept is translated via thoughtful lyrics, and songs that draw musical influence from the four corners of the globe. It's not a big stylistic leap, of course - his bread and butter remains yearning, emotion-rich downtempo music built around gently jazzy grooves and impeccable live instrumentation - but given that few artists do it better than Bonobo, we'll forgive him for that.
Review: "Ma Fleur" is the first full studio album by Jason Swinscoe's Cinematic Orchestra since 2002's "Everyday". The record was written as the soundtrack to a specially commissioned screenplay for an imagined film (which may or may not be made). Shortly after finishing "Everyday", a piece of music which achieved great critical and commercial success, Jason Swinscoe relocated from East London to Paris. Here he began work on the instrumentals which would form the basis of his new record - more moods than finished tracks, a series of sketches or diagrams of directions to follow. Having completed a rough version by early 2005, he gave this to a friend who disappeared for three weeks and came back with short story scripts in which each scene represented a story of a different time in life, expressing the emotions which underpin the journey from birth to death. Jason then took this and worked some more on the tracks, and in turn gave this back to his scriptwriter, the two aspects of the project developing alongside one another. Gradually, Swinscoe recruited suitable vocalists for the atmospheres and themes he wanted to deal with. The remarkable Fontella Bass, who is now sadly in frail health, is the woman behind both legendary soul number "Rescue Me" as well as some of the Art Ensemble of Chicago's finest moments, had worked on "Everyday" and was an obvious choice to voice the parts of the elderly protagonist that Swinscoe envisaged. Mercury-nominated Lou Rhodes is not only a fantastic singer but a young mother and so perfect for the "mid-life" singer. The as-yet unheralded Patrick Watson, a remarkable vocalist from Montreal, became the youngest of the trio.
Review: Jordan Rakei's brilliant debut album, Cloak, made such an impact that the multi-talented New Zealander now finds himself signed to one of the world's most successful independent labels, Ninja Tune. The move into the big leagues seems to have inspired the multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and producer to up his game, because Wallflower is arguably even better than his debut. Rakei has taken a more widescreen approach, largely ditching the trusty MPC in favour of live drums, bass, guitars, pianos and, on a couple of stand-out cuts, what sounds like a string quartet. As a result, his usually woozy and sun-kissed songs sound even warmer and sunnier, with the Rakei's impeccable vocals coming gift-wrapped in classic musicality. In other words, it's a bit good.
Review: Since releasing his second album in 2013, James Blake has become one of the most in-demand artists and producers on the planet, recently appearing on Beyonce's much-hyped "visual album", Lemonade. On The Colour In Anything, it's very much business as usual, with Blake only occasionally veering away from his drowsy, atmospheric, piano-and-vocal template. These variations on a theme - the subtle, 4/4 techno-pop of opener "Radio Silence", the autotune-sporting R&B pop of "I Need A Forest Fire", tactile warmth of "Always", and frankly quite odd accapella throw-down "Meet You In The Maze" - add interest, though Blake remains at his best when concentrating on his most emotion-rich and heart-aching songs.
Review: After debuting with their killer self-titled album back in 2015, Nubiyan Twist are back in full force with this incredible album on Strut. This is broken beat in full widescreen technicolour, with the hefty size of the band and their incredible chops whipping up all kinds of soul stirring patterns and shapes. There's a strong list of guests too, from Nick Richards to Pilo Adami, and not least the legendary ethio-jazz pioneer Mulatu Astatke. From spiky futuristic workouts to delicate bossa inspired trips and drawing on a rich tapestry of cultural influences, this album bursts with life at every turn.
Review: Given that this is the first album from the great Theo Parrish since 2007, it's unsurprising interest in American Intelligence has rocketed over the course of the year as Sound Signature left a trail of hints. Happily, American Intelligence is a fine album; deep and woozy in parts, undeniably soulful, shot through with jazz influences and full to bursting with killer cuts. By now, everyone should know the brilliant "Footwork" single (arguably one of the records of 2014); soon, clubs will swing to the off-kilter dancefloor jazz of "Make No War", the 21st century broken house of the epic "Fallen Funk" and the decidedly odd - but brilliant - "Helmut Lampshade".
Review: The word 'legend' gets banded about rather a lot, but it is certainly applicable to West London scene stalwart Kaidi Tatham. Further confirmation of this elevated status can be found throughout "It's A World Before You", a staggeringly good album that marks the musician-producer's first solo set for some seven years. While rooted in the kind of warm, rich and life-affirming jazz-funk-fuelled broken beat workouts with which Tatham is most readily associated (and they're naturally superb), there's plenty of killer diversions dotted throughout. These include a couple of spacey, soul-flecked ambient rubs, a sublime collaboration with hip-hop/modern soul fusionists Children of Zeus, and a fine head-nodding hip-hop jam featuring rapper Uhmeer. In a word: essential.