Review: Black Cash & Theo AKA Thelonious Beats are Galaxy Sound Co's most experienced editors, having served up already nine excellent offerings on this label. Their latest careful bit of studio splicing work is again a cosmic and mind expanding jazz funk fusion with righteous grooves and life-affirming riffs. The A-aide is a sweet and seductive sound that comes up from below to sweep you off your feet and carry you away to the stars, then 'The Moving Finger' is a little more rooted on planet earth with its knotted bass riffs, glowing harmonies and rickety lead guitar riff, all finished off with some spiritual sax work.
Review: Blue Note Re:imagined is a carefully curated collection of brand-new covers of classic material from the legendary label as served up by a selection of the UK scene's most exciting young talents including Ezra Collective, Nubya Garcia and Brit Award-winning Jorja Smith. For this latest 7" it's Jordan Rakei, who actually hails from Aus, but let's not get mad about that because the super smooth soul singer reaches new heights on the free flowing, heart opening 'Wind Parade'. Jazz pianist Alfa Mist takes care of the flip with a suitably cosmic exploration on 'Galaxy' that pairs live, busy drums and soaring synths with rich chords.
Review: Not to be confused with the mascara-clad indie rock band of the same name, Placebo was a 1970s Belgian jazz-funk combo founded by legendary European jazzman Marc Moulin. Within the rare groove and jazz-dance community, the group's sophomore set 1973 has long been considered a hard-to-find "must-have". Here Matasuna Records celebrates reaching a quarter-century of releases by offering up a seven-inch featuring two of the album's most celebrated cuts. A-side 'Polk' is a genuine jazz-funk delight: a storming dancefloor workout in which mazy, ever-more-intense electric piano solos ride a relaxed but floor-friendly groove. Flipside 'Balek' is, if anything, even better, with spacey synths, sharp horn lines and fluid electric piano solos sparring over another leisurely groove.
Review: Here's something to seriously set the pulse racing: a limited-edition quintuple "Brazil 45s" boxset curated by the effervescent DJ Format, and featuring ten tracks unearthed on his most recent crate-digging trip to South America. In keeping with his much-loved style, most of the material can be loosely described as "psyche break-beat", all of which was initially recorded and released in the 1960s and '70s. That means a blend of hallucinatory Brazilian funk and soul rich in sweaty, often densely layered drums, booming basslines, trippy vocals, eccentric production, mazy Hammond organ lines and rousing horns. The quality bar is set so high that picking individual highlights is tough; suffice to say, you need all ten tunes in your life (and in your record box).
Takeo Yamashita - "A Touch Of Japanese Tone" (4:21)
Tadaaki Misago & Tokyo Cuban Boys - "Jongara Reggae" (3:38)
Chikara Ueda & The Power Station - "Cloudy" (6:08)
Chumei Watanabe - "Downtown Blues" (3:38)
Kifu Mitsuhashi - "Hanagasa Ondo" (2:51)
Monica Lassen & The Sounds - "Incitation" (5:29)
Norio Maeda, Jiro Inagaki & The All-Stars - "Go Go A Go Go" (3:19)
Akira Ishikawa & Count Buffalo & The Jazz Rock Band - "The Sidewinder" (2:41)
Masahiko Sato, Jiro Inagaki & Big Soul Media - "Sniper's Snooze" (6:42)
Review: Some compilations manage to both educate, inform and educate in equal measure; this fine collection from Japanese crate diggers DJ Yoshizawa Dynamite and Chintam is one such set. Comprising mostly little-known tracks recorded by Japanese artists between 1968 and '70, it offers up a wealth of cuts inspired by American jazz-funk "rare groove". There's much to admire across the ten tracks, from the mazy Rhodes solos, fizzing big band jazz grooves and traditional Eastern instrumentation of Toshiko Yonekawa's "Soran Bushi", and the languidly-slung brilliance of Tadaki Misago and Tokyo Cuban Boys' multi-faceted musical fusion "Jongara Reggae", to the Jimi Hendrix-goes-funk heaviness of "Incitation" by Monica Lassen & The Sounds, and the drums-driven dancefloor madness of Masahiko Sato Jiro Inagaki & Big Soul Media's "Sniper's Snooze". Recommended.
Review: Jazz Rock doesn't quite do exactly what it says on the cover - jazz features heavily on this gorgeous record, but of the spiritual kind, and often driven by lush, funky drum playing. It is also a record defined by the distinctive sound of the koto - a traditional Japanese string instrument that lends the record a delicate and beautiful feel. It was recorded in 1973 and sounds both perfectly aged yet utterly fresh and also features bamboo flute playing by Hozan Yamamoto. It's a laidback record, one filled with the joys of spring, but also one that doesn't take itself too seriously and gets upbeat and funky as often as it does tender and pensive.
Street Dreams (feat Miguel Atwood Ferguson) (2:12)
One More Time (3:10)
1989 (feat Miguel Atwood Ferguson) (3:25)
Toulouse (feat Miguel Atwood Ferguson) (2:48)
Big Rick (3:29)
Save Me (feat Mach Hommy) (5:57)
Mr Wu (3:37)
Hold On (feat Lauren Faith) (3:12)
Early Prayer (5:02)
Review: Given that keyboardist and producer Kamaal Williams' 2018 debut album "The Return" was such a rip-roaring success critically and commercially, hopes are naturally sky-high for this delayed sequel. Happily, we can confirm that Williams has arguably excelled himself on "Wu Hen", once again blurring the boundaries between jazz-funk, seductive downtempo grooves, hazy space jazz, deep house influenced dancefloor workouts (see "Mr Wu", whose title references his other artistic alias, Henry Wu) and soft-focus soul - all with the assistance of an expanded line-up of guest musicians and vocalists. Perhaps the biggest impact is made by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, a composer whose string arrangements add an ear-catching new dimension to Williams work. Stunning stuff all told.
Review: Gregory Porter's beautifully buttery baritone has won him plenty of acclaim, fans, and Grammy nominations. How up to his sixth album, the jazz and soul singer is back to uplift you with his heart-felt, joyful celebrations. Of course, the whole affair is perfectly smooth and seductive, but also mighty powerful. Tracks like "Faith in Love" are string laced and upbeat songs to get a wedding crowd in a spin, "Long List Of Troubles" is a dramatic, dynamic jazz anthem and "Modern Day Apprentice" is a trend, stripped back song from, and to, the heart. This is another record that spans the ages in some style.
Billy Hawks - "(O Baby) I Do Believe I'm Losing You" (3:03)
Review: This Juno colour vinyl exclusive finds Linda Lyndell serve up her own majestic cover of the classic "What A Man." Her vocal is smooth and buttery but also laden with gravitas, while the sweeping horns and jazzy keys all around her help to lift the spirits. On the flip is an ice cold slice of funk from Billy Hawks in the form of his "(O Baby) I Do Believe I'm Losing You". It's raw soul that glides at high speed with plenty of hip swinging claps. This is a much sought after reissue that will shift quick, so make sure you do too.
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: Andrew Wasylyk completes a trio of beautiful albums with this latest reoccur don 'Athens of the North'. Across all of the music, he has concerned himself with unearthing, reshaping and conveying the rugged landscapes of Eastern Scotland with lush instrumental music that shimmers inventively. The influence of greats like David Axelrod, Alice Coltrane and Mark Hollis looms large, but never to the detriment of Wasylyk's own exquisite playing. Light often shines through his mellifluous piano chords and dreamy wind sounds. There are subtle spiritual elements and hints of library music also colouring this most accomplished of works.
Review: Acclaimed pianist Greg Foat is a mainstay of the current UK jazz revival thanks to works on Jazzman and Athens of the North. He draws on soul and library music for his inspiration and serves up lush symphonies that are rich in detail, layer and emotion. This new album, which makes use of pedal steel for the first time, goes even more widescreen in its approach and includes powerfully uplifting tracks like "Anticipation" as well as more sensual and slower groovers and languid movers like "Island Life." It is the sound of an artist and composer at the very peak of his powers.
Yazmin Lacey - "I'll Never Stop Loving You" (4:56)
Review: Blue Note Re:imagined finds Decca and Blue Note jin their immeasurably forces for a new series of releases that rework classics from both back catalogues. They are often collisions of old and new talents and form a bridge between jazz generations. This latest offering kicks off with Steam Down's version of Wayne Shorter's "Etcetera" (Ft. Afronaut Zu) and Yazmin Lacey's version of Dodo Greene's - "I'll Never Stop Loving You." Both make for lush, involving listening and mark another fine entry in this series.
Salvation (Act III: Upon Whose Shoulders We Stand) (10:30)
Theme For Cecil (7:47)
Virgin (Act IV: 400 Years: The Clotilda) (10:19)
The Last Slave Ship (5:01)
Dogon Mysteries (4:57)
Review: Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids' Shaman! is a bold and adventurous new record. It is a study in jazz that takes cues from myriad different sounds and scenes. Sub-Saharan jazz, Afrobeat, free-jazz, Afro-Cuban music, spoken word, and more all colour in the tracks which have been written by a large cast of musicians. The album was recorded din London and features Pyramids co-founder Simmons on flute, longtime band member Sandra Poindexter on violin, plus guitar from Bobby Cobb, and three new members from Europe in Jack Yglesias, Ruben Ramon Ramos, and Gioele Pagliaccia. It makes for an expressive but introspective world that draws you deep into its midst, where you will be oh so happy to get lost.
Review: Fittingly, the third drop from London's freshly minted Sola Terra imprint is a first full-length from Brighton seven-piece Ebi Soda, a band that helped launch the label earlier in the year via their self-titled debut EP. Like that set, "Ugh" is rooted in jazz - their mighty horn section is made up of some seriously skilled players - but also draws much influence from dub, drowsy neo-soul, ambient, echoing electronica and head-nodding downtempo grooves. Throw in stellar amounts of delay and reverb, not to mention some cacophonous, high octane drumming, and you have a hugely impressive set that marks the arrival of an undeniably impressive outfit. Recommended.