Review: This majestic jazz love letter was written in 2015. It was Hokkaido pianist Ryo Fukui's last album and now gets an official reissue allowing us all to once again sink into his personal contemporary jazz offering. Fukui is celebrated for his delicate styles and miraculous albums such as 1976's Scenery and a year later, Mellow Dream. He was not only a player, but also a club owner having linked up with his wife Yasuko to open his very own jazz space, Slowboat, in Sapporo in 1995. In the years after he honed and perfected his craft, taking it to new labels as heard here.
Review: Japanese jazz pianist Ryo Fukui is one of the most delicate and skilled payers of his generation. The Hokkaido pianist also owned his own jazz club, Slowboat, with his wife Yasuko, and this month two of his bets loved albums are being reissued with a special half speed remastering job. This one is a recording of him playing in New York with Lisle Atkinson on bass and Leroy Williams on drums. It was laid down in 1999 and inspired by Ryo's mentor Barry Harris. There are plenty of poetic reworks of classics and glowing piano pieces that easily wander their way into your heart.
Review: "Placebo" is a Jazz/ Progressive Rock band from Belgium, led by legendary keyboardist/composer Marc Moulin. This 12"EP is included 3 live tracks recorded in 1973 when they played in TV programme "Three Days In April" regarding jazz in Belgium. This is the first time to be released these tracks on vinyl!
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: 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: 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: 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: 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).
Review: Pepite Records have a brilliant Holy Grail reissue on their hands here with two world music oddities that send seasoned collectors into fits of excitement. They come from French composer Jean Claude Oliver, who was a noted talent in his day and possible the first Parisian to own a sitar in the sixties. He worked with Serge Gainsbourg amongst others, while also working as Derboukas. Two of his finest experiments are served up for the first time here and mixes oriental vibes with eastern bossa. The original of the a-side is impossible to find and the 'Caravan March' gem on the B-side is a welcome addition that fuses psychedelic pop grooves with lush cello.
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.
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: 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: Percussionist Robin Jones was one of the earliest - and eventually longest-serving - exponents of Latin jazz in the UK. While he guested on hundreds of records and was still playing a couple of years before his death at 84 last year, Jones only ever released a handful of albums under his own name. Arguably the best - and certainly most popular amongst Britain's legion of jazz-dancers - was 1972's "El Maja", credited to the Robin Jones Sextet. A scintillating fusion of Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazillian rhythms laden with sprightly woodwind and brass sounds, jaunty piano, jazz-funk Rhodes sounds and notable nods towards rhythm and blues, the hard-to-find album has now been reissued by legendary London jazz DJ Paul Murphy's Jazz Room Records imprint. It should be an essential purchase for anyone who loves Latin jazz.
Review: Brownswood Recordings has high hopes for this debut album from the previously unheralded Yussef Kamaal, which brings together hyped producer Kamaal Williams (AKA Henry Wu) and fast-rising Afrobeat drummer Yussef Dayes. With such talent to draw on, you'd expect Black Focus to be rather good. Happily, it is, with the duo delivering a typically London-centric take on jazz funk. That means that they take as much inspiration from the work of Kaidi Tatham as, say, Herbie Hancock. The key to the album's success - and, yes, it is generally as special as Gilles Peterson suggests - is the fluid combination of Dayes' brilliant drumming and Williams' superb synth solos and effortlessly groovy Rhodes playing.