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.
Review: Blue World is an album that was never intended for release. It features music commissioned for a soundtrack for a Canadian film in 1964 and showcases a quartet that was at its very best. It's made up of short tracks and alternate takes of early Coltrane material and is utterly vibrant. Catchy little ditties like "Village Blues", stripped down numbers like the title track and the mostly-improvised "Traneing In" are all testament to the enduring brilliance of Coltrane, no matter the setting in which he was playing. The clarity of the recording and richness of the bass playing also add to the overall beauty of this record.
Review: Matasuna Records' latest release offers up two sought-after tracks from Bossa 70, a relatively short-lived Peruvian band whose ultra-limited 1970 releases (a total of 400 copies were pressed of their sole single and eponymous debut album) brilliantly joined the dots between jazz, bossa, soul and funk. Listening to these cuts for the first time, it's easy to see why Matasuna has gone to the trouble of licensing them: A-side "Si Voce Pensa" is an inspired Peruvian funk cover of a 1968 Roberto Carlos track rich in bustling breakbeats, punchy horns and confident female vocals. Just as potent is the band's flipside cover of Baden Powell's "Berimbau", which puts a funk-soul twist on a certified bossa-nova classic.
Review: While he enjoyed a brief career as a musician in the 1960s, by the time he recorded debut album "Down On The Road By The Beach" in 1983 Steve Hiett was better known as one of the world's leading fashion photographers. In fact, it was at the suggestion of a Japanese gallery owner that he got back in the studio to record what has long been regarded as an impossible-to-find Balearic gem. Hiett's reverb and delay-laden Peter Green style guitar passages take centre stage throughout, winding in and out of languid grooves and ambient electronics to create what some have called "the ultimate desert island disc" - a record of such lazy, sun-kissed beauty that it sounds tailor made for drowsy days waking up on the beach.
Review: Mukatsuku struck gold again on this latest first time on a "45" issue. It boasts a couple of lesser-known jazz-funk fusion jams which originally featured on Argentine musician Jorge Navarro's 1977 album "Navarro Con Polenta", an LP that has never been issued outside of South America. A-side "Funk Yourself" is a bustling, high-octane jazz-funk Hammond licks and spiralling horns jumping above a Blaxploitation style backing track. "Repartamos El Funky" is a more laid back but no less musically intricate affair, with a variety of high-grade electric piano and guitar solos riding seemingly endless jazz style drum solos and rubbery bass. Juno hand-numbered copies come in exclusive sleeves and this 45 not be repressed. DJ Support comes from Ge-ology, Dom Servini, DJ Koco (Japan), DJ Food,The Allergies,45LIVE.net ,Dr Bob Jones,Rob Luis, Smoov and more
Review: Dynamite Cuts lives up to its name with this limited 7" from acclaimed Brazilian jazz singer Tania Maria. Two driving and dancey tracks pressed nice and loud for the first time on 45, "Fio Maravilha" is a busy arrangement made up of wild piano, big raw drums and Maria's impassioned, lung-emptying singing that whizzes along at pace. "Bedeu" has a little more Latin flavour, bossa nova swagger and space in the mix for the soul to shine through. Drop either one and take shelter, cause both of these cuts are bombs.
Review: Ubiquity is back with another of its two part 7"s, this time from contemporary soul group The Soul Surfers. Experts at covering the greats, they recently turned their hand to a classic from The JB's, while this time out it is Kool & The Gang's classic "Summer Madness" that gets a deep-cut and sexy make over. Part 1 is a sensuous slow burner with downtempo drums and heavenly guitar playing, while part 2 has harder drum grooves and dreamy , psyched-out guitars. It's another ageless rework that you need in your life.
Review: Originally pressed (on a limited run) in 2013, LA Latin funk troupe Boogaloo Assassins have reissued these two spellbinding cover versions again due to public demand. Still on a highly limited run, both cuts need to be in your collection: Dawn Penn's "No No No" gets a strict samba switch with lavish percussion and consistent vocal harmonies throughout while Sonny Henry's "Evil Ways" (best known from its Santana cover) gets the dreamy instrumental treatment where the horns and glocks do the narrating over a tight bed of wood blocks, shakers and liquid Rhodes. Killer stuff and Juno is one of the few stores outside of USA which is carrying the 45. Don't Sleep !
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".
Review: Hozan Yamamoto is a widely revered figure in Japan, and a true icon of the seventies jazz scene. This album from 1971 is one of this best and a seminal work that effortlessly floats through fusion, soul and big band styles and has been basically impossible to buy in original format. Trust Mr Bongo to come correct with this fully licensed version which features his trademark flute playing and finds the maestro in a soaring, uplifting mood here. Big brass adds weight to his leads while well formed grooves drive the album along. Add in subtle Japanese stylings and it all adds up to a J jazz classic.
Review: Jazz-man Greg Foat has always been more open-minded and eclectic than many give him credit for, delivering nods to pastoral folk, movie soundtracks and library music amongst his more jazz-focused output. Even so, "Photosynthesis" is still a curveball, featuring as it does drowsy and mostly leisurely soundscapes that move from Radiophonic Workshop influenced weird-outs and mutant lounge music, to stoned horizontal grooves and post trip-hop soundscapes. Interestingly, some of the album's standout moments come laden with woozy electric pianos and the kind of hazy, slow motion guitar motifs that evoke mental images of long, drawn-out sunsets.
Review: Over the years, Frederiksburg Records has taken us on a deep dive into the lesser-known world of obscure Scandinavian jazz. They're at it again here, too, offering the first ever reissue of Beryil Strandberg Kvintet's solo album, "Circus". It was recorded in one day in October 1973 despite the difficulties the five musicians faced in getting to the studio thanks to a particularly bleak snowstorm. It's a superb set, all told through a glorious fusion of hard bop and model style jazz rich in languid, evocative horn solos, jaunty piano motifs, warm double bass and fluid but all-action drums. Highlights include the epic title track "Circus", the up-tempo big band style cheeriness of "Relik" and the undulating brilliance of "Cambodia".
Review: Cheick Tidiane Seck's latest album is something of an all-star affair. It sees a banquet's worth of guest musicians (including fellow African music legend Manu Dibango) help the Malian music maestro send "an Afro-Jazz prayer" to the late, great Randy Weston - a musician whose unique Pan-African vision influenced so many of his contemporaries. The resultant set is vibrant and alluring, with Seck and company underpinning Weston's fluid jazz piano motifs with dense, heavy, intricate and often delightfully polyrhythmic rhythms. There are some more atmospheric and intoxicating numbers present, too - the version of "Timbuktu" is stunning, as is the bluesy "In Memory Of" - but the album's greatest calling card remains it's energetic and effervescent approach.
Review: Recorded in 1969 but first released in 1973, "Izipho Zam (My Gifts)" remains one of Pharoah Sanders' most expressive, out-there and enjoyable sets. As this fresh, heavyweight vinyl pressing proves, the album has lost none of its charm. It sees Sanders and his expansive backing band (including Lonnie Liston-Smith on piano) offer up a fine saunter through spiritual soul-jazz ("Prince Of Peace") before going all-out free jazz via two of the most intense and mind-altering workouts you'll ever hear. While the 13-minute "Balance" is a cacophonous and paranoid romp through free-jazz/experimental rock fusion, it's near 30-minute B-side "Izipho Zam" that stands out. Seemingly in a constant state of flux, the piece moves from densely percussive Afro-jazz to wall-of-sound noise-jazz insanity without skipping a beat.
Review: Far Out has decided to pay tribute to one of Brazilian music's most overlooked - and, let's face it, obscure - talents, Ana Mazzotti. She recorded just two albums in the 1970s before passing away from cancer in her early 30s a few years later. Both of those album have become sought-after, particularly 1974 debut "Ninguem Vai Me Segurar". This first ever reissue proves why. Warm, breezy and effortlessly soulful, it sees Mazzotti and her backing band sashay between languid samba-jazz, intergalactic bossa, soft-focus Brazilian soul and the kind of attractive jazz-funk/fusion that would later become the hallmark of Azymuth (not much of a surprise since two of that band's founder members were part of Mazzotti's backing band).
Review: BBE's second trawl through late 20th century deep Japanese jazz is every bit as eye opening and essential as its predecessor, which caused many hearts to flutter when it was released 18 months ago. From start to finish, we're treated to a righteous range of largely little-known tunes, from the spiraling, sun-kissed spirituality of Makoto Terashita Meets Harold Land's epic "Dragon Dance", and the funk-fuelled dancefloor jazz brilliance of Mabumi Yamaguchi Quartet's "Distant Thunder", to the smooth, snaking seductiveness of George Kawaguchi Big Four's "Vietnam" and the synthesizer jazz-funk insanity of Electro Keyboard Orchestra's "Mother Of The Future". A superb selection of genuinely off-kilter and life affirming Japanese gems that should be an essential purchase for both serious and casual jazz fans.