Review: The music that makes up Harmony of Difference, Kamasi Washington's first EP of note since the release of acclaimed 2015 album The Epic, was premiered live as a "six-track movement" earlier this year. The "suite" - here stretched across both sides of an essential 12" - sees Washington continue to explore the idea of what it means to be black in America in the 21st century. Musically, the EP contains some of his smoothest and most laidback compositions yet, with all his musical collaborators being on fine form. The headline attraction is undoubtedly 14-minute flipside "The Truth", an almost operatic jazz epic full of swelling choral contributions, fizzing drum solos, rising horns and, of course, plenty of Washington's distinctive saxophone.
Review: During the 1970s, Sanifu Al Hall Jr decided to form a group dedicated to blending jazz, soul and cutting-edge electronic sounds. The brilliantly named Cosmos Dwellerz Arkestra never released any music during the period - not commercially, at least - with this fascinating 12" marking their belated debut. "Love Thoughts", which was committed to tape in 1977, is undoubtedly intergalactic, offering a spiritually-minded mix of spiraling jazz-funk synths, woozy horn solos, stoned drums and toaster-hot bass. On the flip you'll find an interesting curio: an extended 1967 radio interview with Sanifu Al Hall Jr in which he discusses his musical story and approach to life.
Review: Manchester's Gondwana Records, run by Matthew Halsall, has been a constant source of good vibes and inspiration. Leaning on a jazz note, most of the material is centred away from the dance floor and yet there is always plenty of movement and joyous rhythm, particularly from Halsall's appearances. Here, we have a reissue of 2015's "Journey In Satchidananda", a majestic wave of jazz flutes, seductive piano keys, in what is an altogether dreamy sort of setting, which is further evolved on the supremely euphoric waves of the unbeatable "Blue Nile". At last, some contemporary jazz on 12" that has left us blown away..!
Review: Matthew Halsall's Gondwana label is seeing a busy August what with the imprint flooding our jazz charts with reissues and, of course, new releases such as this wonderful collaborative effort from The Gondwana Orchestra and Dwight Trible. Trible's voice is like silk, running up and down the delicate waves of melodies from the collective, with "Colors" and "The Creator Has A Master Plan" both capable of making the toughest of audiences feel utterly uplifted. On the flip, "Love Is Everywhere" shines bright amid a flurry of flutes and intricate drum percussions, while "You've Got To Have Freedom" rides off a much smoother, deeper sort of vibe that's got a little funk at its core. Wicked.
Review: Herbie Hancock has been responsible for many era-defining records over the years - "Rockit" being a particularly good example - but few of his compositions have been quite as game changing as "Chameleon". First featured on 1973 album "Head Hunters", the 15-minute epic was revolutionary in a number of ways, not least in its use of a killer 12-note bassline, "percussive" style guitar parts and loose-limbed funk beat. It remains one of the greatest jazz-funk moments of all time, as this timely reissue proves. This time round, it comes accompanied by another "Head Hunters" classic - Hancock's groovy, synth-laden re-recording of his own 1962 composition "Watermelon Man". Two stone cold classics for the price of one: what's not to like?
Review: Nicola Conte and Gianluca Petrella follow up last year's beautiful "African Spirits / New World Shuffle" with two more lavish instrumentals. "Sun Song" lives up to its name with wave after wave of heated musicianship from the belting harmonies to the light-touch keys. "Nigeria" taps deep into the source too as it drives us through the heart of Lagos with full horns and sweeping keys. Spiritual, sun-splashed and vital.
Review: As far as we know, Norwich has never been renowned as a hotbed of quality jazz. Norfolk trio Mammal Hands, then, could well be the city's greatest jazz export to date. They've already released three impressive albums in the last four years, and this fine EP will surely enhance their reputation further. The real killer is A-side "Becoming", a wonderfully positive, gently rising affair that sits somewhere between studious spiritual jazz and giddy, thrill-a-minute jazz-dance. That said, we're also enjoying the undulating horn lines, twinkling pianos and soft touch beats of "Refuge", not to mention the smoky, early morning lament of beguiling closing cut "Shimmer".
Habbanera (Leo Mas & Fabrice alternate remix) (6:41)
Review: Over the years, Italian eccentrics 291out have proved tricky to pin down. While their releases are rooted in the spacey end of the jazz-funk spectrum, they also touch on film soundtracks, quirky electronica and meandering progressive rock. This time out they're operating on a Latin tinged jazz-rock tip, with crunchy guitars, fuzz-soaked horns, rubbery bass and eyes-closed electric piano motifs rising above a head-nodding groove. The band's included "Alternative Version" is noticeably wilder and more intense, with a looser beat and a greater number of mind-mangling horn solos. In terms of remixes, you'll find Italian veterans Leo Mas and Fabrice at the controls. Their A-side revision sounds a little like a jazzier take on Italian Balearic rock merchants Almunia, while their flipside "Alternative Remix" is a bounding, peak-time-ready jazz-house workout.
Review: The colourful obi strip astride the cover of this audiophile reissue boasts that Imani's "Out of The Blue" album is "the ultimate private press jazz holy grail". While that claim is debatable, copies of the Gilles Peterson championed 1983 edition, which the San Francisco based band pressed up themselves, have been known to change hands for four-figure sums. Musically, the four tracks are breezy, sunny and summery. Opener "Just Another Love Song" sets the tone, with soulful group vocals and jazz solos rising above a warm groove, while "Somebody's Love" is a slow jam smothered in spacey synthesizers. "Byrd's House" is a jazz-funk dancefloor number - this time blessed with extended, eyes-closed guitar and piano solos - while "Friendship Cover Charge" is a stomping peak-time workout that should send dancers spinning.
Rubberband Of Life (feat Ledisi - radio edit) (4:22)
Rubberband Of Life (feat Ledisi) (5:46)
Rubberband Of Life (instrumental) (5:37)
Review: Amongst jazz aficionados, Miles Davis's Rubberband album is regarded as one of the genre's "lost classics". Although recorded in 1985, the set has never been released. We're promised it will finally appear later in the year. First, as a taster, we're treated to an EP that accompanies the legendary title track - a dexterous and squeezable chunk of '80s electrofunk blessed with some fine soloing from Davis - with three new "Rubberband of Life" versions. These feature vocalist Ledisi and re-cast the track as a dusty, Fugees style chunk of New York hip-hop soul. While radically different in the best possible way, all three versions (radio edit, extended and instrumental takes) prominently feature the legendary trumpet player's meandering lead lines.
Review: Kalita Records are proud and honoured to announce the first ever official reissue of the four choice tracks from Randolph Baker's privately pressed sought-after 1982 disco album 'Reaching For The Stars', plus an unreleased instrumental take of 'Party Life' sourced from the original 24-track analogue master tapes.
Originally recorded at Jim Morris and Rick Miller's Tampa-based Morrisound Studios, 'Getting Next To You' features both a mixture of both local Florida talent plus jazz superstar Nat Adderley and bassist John Lamb at their finest. Originally pressed in a limited run of just one-thousand copies, with no distribution and most copies being sold in the local city and on Randolph's own merchandise table at the back of live gigs, original copies have long been sought-after by both collectors and DJs alike, acknowledged as a true grail and masterpiece in the disco scene and deservedly demanding extortionate figures to those lucky enough to find their own.
Here, in collaboration with Randolph, Kalita Records have chosen to re-release the four choice tracks from the album: 'Getting Next To You', 'Jazzman', 'Callin' Me' and 'Party Life'. The former is an in-demand horn and chant-filled disco masterpiece, which, as Randolph explains, concerns unity and "everyone on the same level in other words, everyone just loving life". It is arguably the song that Randolph is most well-known for in the disco and funk scene and perfect for the modern discerning dance floor. 'Jazzman' is an instrumental track with prominent trumpet and saxophone solos working with funky basslines to produce a truly great jazz-funk groove. It was "a tribute to Nat Adderley and Duke Ellington's bass player, John Lamb, for being so generous and saying yes to the project". 'Callin' Me' is a soulful disco number featuring the lead vocals of Laurie Erickson and is "about being on the road and ensuring loved ones that you will always come back home no matter what. It was like a promise to ensure loved ones they didn't have to worry". Lastly, 'Party Life' is a joyous disco track with a strong funk bassline and horns. As Randolph recalls, it "was the joy like after an actor finishes a movie. There was nothing but joy. It's finished; let's celebrate big time. Where everyone in the studio yelled at the top of their lungs - The End!" Here, with access to the 24-track master tapes we have been able to include the original version plus an unreleased instrumental take, allowing us to focus on the infectious bassline and make it even more ready for the modern dance floor.
Accompanied by extensive interview-based liner notes and never-before-seen photos.
Review: The first release from the Axis Audiophile Series. Jeff Mills has formed an electronic jazz fusion band and this 12? is a recording of their recent performance in Kobe during the TodaysArt.JP Festival. Mills manages the decks, drums and percussion and is joined Detroit legend and Underground Resistance stalwart Gerald Mitchell (Los Hermanos/Galaxy 2 Galaxy), keyboardist Yumiko Ohno and bassist Kenji Jino. "Eventide" has the same kind of urban, uplifting soul as anything Kaidi Thatham or Mark de Clive-Lowe have made and isn't bad at all! On the flip "Happy Gamma Ray" features uplifting keys and emotive chords backed by funk bass and one of Mills' unmistakeable 909 drum machine workouts. It really seems that there's no limit to this Motor City legend's creativity which has spanned nearly 30 years and we're excited about this new chapter in the Wizard's sonic universe.
Review: For the third instalment of their record label, Social Joy invites the London based band, Natural Lateral, to step into the records label family with their first LP.. The name "Cogito Ergo Jam" meaning, "I think therefore I jam" sums up its essence and beautifully weaves together different strands of musical roots and forms. Echoing jazz legends like Azymuth, Roy Ayers and Lonnie Liston Smith but always in search of new musical territories, this release takes the listener into a feel-good and fiery sensation of musical freedom. Natural Lateral's tremendous energy in the studio is felt throughout on every track of the LP, giving these recordings a beautifully intimate insight into the phenomenal vision of the band.
Review: Last year, Nunorthern Soul unveiled the first part of their Ryo Kawasaki retrospective. While that focused on selected works created by the Japanese jazz guitarist between 1979 and '83 - including a couple of strong nods towards disco - this follow-up looks at material recorded and released between '76 and '80. There's plenty to enjoy, from the Abbey Road-era Beatles-meets-Courtney Pine vibes of "Snowstorm" and George Benson-in-space trip of "Quasar Infection", to the freestyle, synth-laden jazz-funk madness that is "Nogie". Arguably best of all, though, is "Thunder & Sea Gypsies (Medley)", an impossible-to-pigeonhole journey that moves from krautrock style looseness to cosmic jazz via some thrillingly psychedelic wig-outs.
Review: For the second salvo on Cornhusker Records, the publicity-shy crew is treating us to a quartet of re-edits starting impressively with "Easily", a floor-focused rearrangement of a slap bass, woodblock and sax-heavy chunk of jazz-funk goodness, before turning a jaunty Mizell Brothers cut into a rolling house groover. The fun continues on side B, where the sweaty percussive Hammond funk of "Launchpad" is followed by head-in-the-clouds delight "Bring It", a subtle scalpel rework of a Clavinet-sporting Blaxploitation era disco-funk workout. Given the variety and quality on show, this has the feel of a record that might stay in your "playing out" box for a while.
Guarapachanga (A Nicholson Miquifaye remix) (9:14)
Guarapachanga (A Nicholson Miquifaye reprise) (5:56)
Review: The New York-based (U)nity is made up of Michael Valeanu, Axel Tosca Laugart, Chris Smith, Max Cudworth and Amaury Acosta. They formed the band in 2006 as a project to explore Afro-Cuban jazz, funk, soul and contemporary electronica. They say they've been influenced by everyone from Chucho Valdes to Art Blakey to Led Zeppelin to Kendrick Lamar, and you can definitely hear all of that in this jawdropping work. "Guarapachanga" is special in that it was the first song written by the band back in their days as music students at The New School. It's derived from the style known as guarapachangeo - the most advanced form of Cuban rumba, heavily improvisational and based on very complex rhythms and melodies. On this recording, (U)nity is graced with a guest performance by Grammy Award winner Pedrito Martinez, a master rumbero, one of the greatest conga players ever, an innovator who has left a permanent mark on Cuban music. Martinez is also a priest in the Yoruba religion and a historian of Cuban culture.
Over its eight and a half minutes, "Guarapachanga" twists and turns and journeys through a mind bending array of different tempos and modes, from Latin jazz to hip hop, ultimately ending with a trippy ambient soundscape. The whole thing is overlaid with free spirited melody, soul and the Afro-Cuban essence that is the band's lifeblood. The white-hot live playing gives it the feel of the best early-morning jam session, yet it packs a sonic punch that will make it sound incredible on a good sound system in the hands of adventurous DJs in the world-beat or spiritual-house vein. If you didn't know "Guarapachanga" was a contemporary work you might mistake it for a Loft classic; yet it's also as fresh and exciting as anything you'll hear this year.
Review: A brand new vinyl-only imprint from Italy... A MA invites one of their most respected countrymen and international music connoisseurs Gerardo Frisina for a quad of stunning compositions that all speak with a passionate Latin tongue. "Burak" looks east and west for inspiration... East for the percussive, string and chanting vocal ingredients, and west for the techno dynamic that builds and subverts with wild-eyed abandon. "Zagara" is an equally floor-fired affair complete with bossa attitude, lush vocal textures and an infectious rhythmic insistency. The jazz-tickled "Michael's Vision", meanwhile, struts with a strange syncopated swing that neatly fits the frenetic sax noodles and "Take Five" style piano refrain. Finally we hit a jazz version of "Burak" where the techno dynamic is softened by sax and soothing Rhodes, but the beat insistency is still loud and clear.