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.
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 !
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: Already out in the ether since the summer, Kamasi's sprawling three-part jazz opus finally sees the light of vinyl day. Presented on heavyweight vinyl with his striking signature artwork, its delivery befits the album's rave reviews on its original arrival. Highlights, in case you haven't heard it yet, are the awe-inspiring switch from fusion to swing on "The Next Step" the album's overall sparing inclusion of vocal that make "The Rhythm Changes" really stand out and sparkle and the attention to detail on the narrative structure on reprise notes such as "Re Run Home". A must-have for any jazz/Brainfeeder fan.
Review: Wow, classics don't come much more special than this. A like-for-like repress of the 1970 RCA release, both sides here are soaked in Scott Heron's raw troubled soul. The endlessly sampled, hugely powerful and perfectly funky "Revolution" remains almost as poignant and prophetic as it was the day it was penned. "Home Is Where The Hatred Is" is much more personal and reveals his talent as a singer as much as the lead track boasts his poetry and ability to deliver a strong message.
Review: A modern day Scott-Heron, without the myriad of demons on his back, Grammy-nominated jazz singer Porter has such a distinctive voice, charm and band command. He clearly lends himself well to edit culture (as proved by the huge success of the many "1960 What?" versions in recent years) and this 7" from Expansion is no exception. "On My Way To Harlem" is straight up narrative jazz with fantastic attention paid to the subtle samba and solemn horns. "1960 What?" speaks for itself; far more authentic to the original than the other versions that have popped up, if you've not already got a favourite edit - Jazz & Cole have the answer.
Review: Classic jazz funk album from the legendary Johnny 'Hammond' Smith with a special version with six previously unissued bonus out-takes. Released in 1975 and his 32nd long player, it heralded a fresh chapter in his career that saw him exploring more electronic instrumentation and deeper shades of funk in a similar way to Roy Ayers or Bob James. The result was a timeless document that carries motifs of many of today's artists; the harmonies of "Can't We Smile?", for instance, smack of Plantlife while the punctuated piano work and mirrored squiggling synths on "Song For The Family" echoes with Flying Lotus-style whim. Also a key source of breaks for many junglists, Gears is a historic document that's not only played a strong role in electronic music but still sounds incredible today.
Review: Few contemporary jazz songwriters have emerged with such demonstrative authenticity and clarity as Gregory Porter. Liquid Spirit continues where the prolific artist left us with Be Good and Water; soulful, funky and galvanised in honest emotion. Echoing foundation-setting singers such as Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield and even further back to the likes of Sammy Davis Junior, Porter flings us from vibe to vibe with precision-written lyrics and emphatic delivery. Highlights include the double-bass slapping stomper "Liquid Spirit", the boogie-fuelled "The In Crowd", the Cullum-esque "When Love Was King" and the tear-jerking finale "Water Under Bridges." Beautiful business.
Review: Following a series of self released albums over the past three years which saw them expand on hip hop classics with an auspicious level of jazz virtuosity, Canadian jazz trio Badbadnotgood grace the Innovative Leisure imprint with this enlightening collection III. Consisting of Matthew Tavares on keys, Chester Hansen on bass, and Alex Sowinski on drums, it's not hard to see why Badbadnotgood have been getting the usually hushed toned Gilles Peterson all exciting after a few listens of the nine tracks here. If you dug those cover versions you will love this album.
Shabaka Hutchings - "Black Skin, Black Masks" (6:59)
Triforce - "Walls" (5:07)
Joe Armon-Jones - "Go See" (7:38)
Kokoroko - "Abusey Junction" (7:03)
Review: We Out Here, Brownswood Recordings' latest compilation, was born out of a desire by label boss Gilles Peterson to capture the essence of London's contemporary jazz scene. To ensure a sense of there "here and now", Peterson invited some of the city's brightest young bands and musicians into the studio in August 2017, recording the results over three action-packed days. The resulting never-heard-before tracks are, for the most part, joyous and thrilling, and range from trad jazz, jazz-funk and Latin jazz to acoustic-electronic fusions and groovy, guitar-laden downtempo explorations. It feels like a glimpse of a scene on the rise, and we wouldn't be surprised if many of those involved become modern British jazz greats in the years to come.
This Is What You Are (feat The High Five Quintet - radio edit) (4:21)
This Is What You Are (The Brazilian Rime) (4:53)
Review: "This Is What You Are" is undoubtedly Mario Biondi's most celebrated work. He first sung it for original composers Was A Bee in 2004, before re-recording it for his debut album (alongside the High Five Quintet) in 2006. Since then it has been reissued or remixed on numerous occasions. Here it gets reissued on a tidy 7" single, with a punchy radio edit - a swinging, Sunday afternoon style chunk of Latin soul-jazz rich in jaunty grooves, soaring orchestration and smooth vocals - being joined by the "Brazilian Rime" rework. This tasty re-recording re-casts the song as a breezy, samba-fired slab of early 1970s style Brazilian MPB. It's an inspired interpretation and could well become the definitive version of the track.
Review: REPRESS ALERT: Arriving at their fourth release, Emotional Rescue's knowledge of forgotten musical gems and their commitment to give them the chance of wider appreciation they fully deserve cannot be in question! After digging out that Bob Chance classic, the focus switches to something of an equally balearic nature with the release of Jaki Whitren & John Cartwright's lost folk rock album International Times. Originally released as a private press on the obscure French label Living Records back in 1983, this eight track album is filled with dusty soul nuggets which are given extra life by the silky vocal stylings of Whitren - formerly a backing singer for Alan Parson. Opening track "Stay Cool" sounds quite ahead of it's time, whilst there are some true dancefloor gems for the more adventurous DJs out there, such as the title track and the laid back bump of "Go With The Flow."
Flying Fantasy (exclusive instrumental version) (4:35)
Rhodes E Serenidade (3:37)
Review: Small repress of the Modern Sun Records founder and experienced jazz-wise producer Marc Friedli AKA Skymark. A-side "Flying Fantasy" originally appeared on the Spanish producer's 2016 album "Resistance Sonore", but is here featured in instrumental form for the first time. If anything, it's better than the original version, largely because we get to revel in Friedli's mazy Fender Rhodes solos, rubbery jazz-funk synth bass and loose-limbed, West London style broken beats. You'll find plenty more jaunty jazz-funk vibes and liquid electric piano solos on B-side cut "Rhodes E Serenidade", which first slipped out way back in 2015. DJ Support so far from Dom Servini, Emanative,Red Greg,Kevin Beadle, Mike Chadwick,Dynamite Cuts & Rocafort Records so far
Review: Since launching last year, the Dynamite Cuts has delivered a string of killer seven-inch singles featuring sought-after cuts from fantastic old albums and this is another must-have along the same lines. It boasts two tracks from Clarence Wheeler and the Enforcers' 1970 debut album, "Doing What We Wanna Do", neither of which have appeared on a "45" before. You'll find a riotous Hammond funk explosion rich in energetic, break-driven drumming and wild trumpet and organ solos on the B-side, with the similarly sweaty title track nestling on the A. This insatiable number is altogether deeper and looser in feel, with tasty group vocals rising above bustling drums, warm Hammond lines and punchy sax solos.
Review: You can always rely on 5 Borough Breaks for some top shelf hip hop. The label's latest missive is a legendary one from O.C. - "Time's Up" is a rousing, hard hitting beat with an even tougher verse that rides on the booming kicks. It also samples Les DeMerle's "A Day In The Life" which just so happens to be pressed on the flip and yes, it is in fact a cover of The Beatles. Here though, it becomes a stirring big bang jazz cut that forms an impressive wall of retro sound that will inject realness and rawness into any party. Like always with this label, quantities are limited so move fast to get your fix.
Review: Tennessee's legendary jazz pianist, Harold Mabern, is surely one of the kings of the mighty Prestige label, and his material helped bridge the gap between jazz and funk back in the 1970s, alongside the likes of Idris Muhammad, The Jimmy Castor Bunch and all those geniuses. "I Want You Back" is a stone-cold classic and contains one of the most hummable trumpet lines ever, and if you hear closely it's been reworked and sampled by none other than the King of pop when he was only a little one. Funk Inc's sublime "Sister Janie" resides on the flip, a more lo-fi funk bullett for the diggers, and complete with a dusty organ!
Review: There's a growing feeling both inside and outside jazz that Kamasi Washington could well turn out to be one of the style's all-time greats. He's certainly making all the right moves, delivering thought-provoking concept albums of eyebrow-raising length that simply refuse to settle on one sound, rhythm, style or sub-genre. Heaven & Earth, his first album for almost three years, continues this trend, comprising angry instrumental answers to America's growing issues with class division and racism, Rotary Connection style workouts, Sun Ra-esque spiritual workouts, funk and soul-influenced burners, spiraling choral and orchestral affairs, and electric fusions of rubbery synth-funk and mind-altering jazz-blues. Typically, the results are never less than sublime, with Washington's virtuoso saxophone playing taking centre stage throughout.
Review: Samba flavours do not come more authentic than this. The sixth in Mr Bongo's Brazil 45 series, here they unearth two foundation pieces from Rio collective Os Origianais Do Samba. Forming in 60s Rio, they're still highly active today and have a discography peppered with Brazilian gold. This 45 does well to showcase their breadth... "La Vem Salgueiro" is quintessential samba. Heavy rhythm, punctuated vocals and a dynamic that leaps from bold and delicate in a flash, it charms you instantly. "Tenha Fe" has a softer soul as it strums and sways and more of a folky sensation, tight harmonies and alluring naked instrumentation.
Review: Two crucial moments from Gil Scott Heron's immense repertoire; "When You Are Who You Are" takes the lead. Taken from his 1971 album Pieces Of A Man, it's a straight up homage to clarity and honesty told in the context that only Gil knew best. Flip for a very special alternative take of "Free Will". The title track of his following album, released a year later in 1972, the variations of this take (which has never been released on vinyl before) are subtle but strong enough to justify it a place in your collection.
Review: Astonishingly, Boogaloo's re-make of Pharoah Sanders classic "You've Gotta Have Freedom" is now 24 years old. It was originally included on the B-side of the jazz-loving Swedish hip-hop outfit's 1995 EP "Humongous Steps (Back Down To London)", but arguably became more widely known when it was reissued by G.A.M.M. on 12" in 2003. Here it appears on 7" for the first time, with the band's vocal version - a positive, life-affirming delight that brilliantly flits between sections faithful to Sanders' version and rapped section underpinned by live hip-hop breaks - being accompanied by an equally impressive instrumental take. If it's not already in your collection, this edition should be an essential purchase.
Review: Jazz fans take note: Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album more than lives up to its name. It features previously unreleased recordings by the late, great John Coltrane and his regular accompanying players (pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and Drummer Elvin Jones). The reels of tape the tracks were salvaged from were dated 1963, around the time that the quartet laid down some of its most forward-thinking work for the legendary Impulse label. Much of the material consists of original Coltrane compilations, though there are a few notable covers (including a great version of jazz standard "Nature Boy") dotted throughout. As you'd expect, Coltrane's performance is incredible from start to finish.
Review: It has only taken two albums for Chris Illingworth, Nick Blacka, and Rob Turner to land with an LP on the legendary Blue Note label, but they've done it, and they've done it in fine style. Moreover, it's also a bold move from Blue Note, who only usually steer away from pure jazz for the likes of Madlib and co, but in hindsight, the Gogo Penguin trio have what it takes to be remembered as fine producers of beat-driven free jazz. Mixing up elements of nu-soul, together with broken beat and classic jazz, the trio's music is wild and diverse, and fully representative of the label's vision and charisma. Also, it's exactly the sort of thing that Gilles Peterson is in to, so sit back, relax, and let Man Made Object take you away.