Review: The jazz and broken beat revival continues apace as we race through 2019, so original pioneers of the sound are rightly coming back into focus. Enter the Brand New Heavies, one of the key acts of the mid-eighties who sound as good on this brand new album as ever. It's littered with funk-licked pop, crystalline acid jazz and singalong songs that range from tender ballads to soaring soul. Angie Stone, Beverley Knight and other vocalists lend their tones along the way, but importantly TBNH is not a revival or self-satisfied celebration. Instead, it feels like a forward-looking and accomplished album that takes the band in subtle new directions.
Review: Fast-rising New York soul singer Carlton Jumel Smith continues his successful partnership with Timmion house band Cold Diamond & Mink via a debut album that sounds like it could have been recorded in the early 1970s rather than 2019. Smith's lyrics and effortlessly soulful vocal delivery take centre stage throughout, though it's the faithfully fuzzy grooves, punchy horn lines and languid, delay-laden guitar motifs provided by his storied backing band that make the album a real winner. Highlights are plentiful throughout, from the loved-up sweetness of "This Is What Love Looks Like!" and Motown-influenced stomp of "We're All We Got", to the slack-tuned drum breaks and bittersweet messages of "I Can't Love You Anymore (feat Pratt)" and the cheery goodness of "Remember Me". In a word: superb.
Review: Is there a more genuinely eclectic producer than Kalbata operating right now? We certainly can't think of one. Over the last decade and a half he's turned his hand to everything from dub, techno, dubstep and electro to Balearic beats, downtempo grooves and inspired musical fusions that simply cannot be categorized. His latest excursion - made in cahoots with five-piece Israeli band Tigris -falls into the latter category, offering up a brilliant blend of African and Caribbean rhythms, Turkish psych-funk organ solos, off-kilter electronics, wavy ambient chords and glistening guitars. It's hard to accurately describe but brilliantly produced and hugely entertaining. Don't sleep on this one!
Review: Few do funky soul jazz sessions as well as The New Mastersounds, who first formed in Leeds in 1999 and have gone on to be regulars at the Jazz Cafe as well as New Orleans' annual Jazz Fest. Late last year in Denver, the band linked up with vocalist Lamar Williams Jr (son of the late Allman Brothers bassist Lamar Williams) to record this high class album of soulful horns, live drums and heartfelt vocals, all finished off with percussion by Thievery Corporation's Jeff Franca. Digging deep into the history of funk while also looking to a new paradigm, "Shake It" is an album of feel-good emotions that make a lasting impression.
Review: REPRESS ALERT: As far as collaborative delights go, this really takes the cake. Miami boogie wildcard Noel Williams, aka King Sporty, throwing it down heavy with legendary Jamaican reggae axe man Ernest Ranglin - as you might expect, the results are incendiary. "Soft Touch" has a hint of the cosmic about it as it romps through insanely catchy chorus chants, stirring brass stabs and Ranglin's sweet licks. "Keep On Dancing" has a more uptempo feel, "In The Rain" slips into a laid back reggae skank and "Be What You Want To Be" turns the vintage disco heat back up. Throughout this wonderful mini LP, the duo switch between each other's strengths and bring out the best in each other, like all good collaborations should.
Review: Africa Seven's second tribute to the "funky sounds of female Africa" is packed to the rafters with gems. While some of the material may be familiar to those digging Afro-funk, disco and boogie - see Oby Onyioha's breezy boogie sing-along "Enjoy Your Life", the similarly awesome early '80s dancefloor pressure of Nayanka Bell's "Just A Boogie" and the gnarled disco-rock pressure of Christy Essien's "Nobody Can Stop You" - the vast majority of tracks are not only little-known, but also simply essential. Our picks include the disco-reggae bounce of Bebe Manga's "Lokognolo", Theodora Ifudu's Teena Marie style disco-boogie workout "This Time Around" and the spiraling heavy funk pressure of Diane Solo's "N'Ziketio".
Review: At the time of his passing in 2017, the late, great soul star Leon Ware was working on a new album with long-time collaborator Taylor Graves. Although he never finished it, Be With has decided to put together a final posthumous album that contains the five songs he finished for the set - which, impressively, include cameos from the likes of Kamasi Washington and Thundercat - and six cuts from an obscure, Japan-only CD from 2013. It's a wonderful listen from start to finish, with the Latin-tinged soul-jazz of "For The Rainbow", the head-nodding boogie business of "Sigh" and the synth-laden, strangely swung brilliance of "Are You Ready" amongst the highlights.