Review: Two years on from the release of his critically acclaimed "Wallflower" album on Ninja Tune, Jordan Rakei returns with his most eagerly awaited set to date. Happily, it doesn't disappoint. Beginning with the electronic soul-pop brilliance of "Mad World", Rakei effortlessly flits between synth-laden hip-hop-soul ("Say Something"), slinky downtempo songs ("Mind's Eye"), 21st century disco-boogie anthems ("Rolling Into One"), slow-burn musical fusions (the military drums, Juju guitars and heartfelt vocals of "Oasis") and the kind of sumptuous, sun-kissed fare that defies easy categorization. With Rakei's sultry vocals taking centre stage throughout, "Origin" is a sparkling set that just gets better with every listen.
Review: Since launching a few years back, Matthew Halsall's Gondwana Records has released some terrific albums from a string of talented but often little-known artists. This brilliant set is another. It comes from Hania Rani, a pianist, composer and producer better known for her collaborative work with the likes of Christian Loffler, Dobrawa Czocher and Hior Chronik. "Esja" is Rani's solo debut and sees her sashay between atmospheric, often poignant pieces that put her impeccable piano playing at the heart of the action. It's exceedingly elegant and picturesque, with Rani's subtle use of field recordings and crackling background noise only enhancing the listening experience.
Review: Way back in 1976, now legendary U.S jazz drummer Steve Reid and his band, The Legendary Master Brotherhood, headed into Studio WE in NYC to record what would become "Nova" - a near-legendary debut album that has since become a cult classic. Featuring a mix of punchy free jazz and free funk, the set is still regarded by many jazz-heads as Reid's defining work. Here it gets a fresh reissue on limited orange vinyl, with Soul Jazz Records doing their usual bang-up job on the mastering and packaging. There's much to admire throughout, from the fizzing dueling trumpet and sax solos of breezy opener "Nova", to the spiraling spiritual jazz intensity of "Free Spirits - Unknown" and the free-jazz epic "Sixth House".
Review: David Hanke's Renegades Of Jazz project has been relatively successfully in achieving its initial aims, namely "bringing the jazz back to the dancefloor". After a three-year hiatus Hanke and company are back with a new album, "Nevertheless" - a funk-fuelled romp through bustling breakbeats, elastic double bass, fuzzy Stax style horns, jammed out piano lines and groovy guitar riffs. Hanke has roped in a number of guest vocalists and collaborators to put their stamp on the set, with stellar contributions from rapper Donnie Numeric (the hip-hop/jazz/funk fusion of "Hot Wired"), soul singer Clair Fallows (see the punchy floor-rocker "Light Me Up") and Afrika Fuentes (check the tropical funk brilliance of "Don't Break My Love").
Review: Eight years on from its previous reissue (that time courtesy of Analog Africa's "Limited Dance Edition" series), Mr Bongo is offering up a fresh, licensed re-press of Rob's eponymous 1977 Afro-funk masterpiece. If you missed out in 2011, the set is definitely worth picking up because it's rock solid heat from start to finish. Check, for example, the heavily percussive Afro-beat/Afro-funk fusion of "Funky Rob Way", the flanged funk guitars and heavy brass action of "Boogie On", the jazz guitars and loved-up vocals of "Your Kiss Stole Me Away" and the William Onyeabor-does-James-Brown heaviness of closing cut "More".
Never Gonna Give You Up (Won't Let You Be) (long version)
All We Need
Remind Me (LP version)
Settle For My Love
Feels So Real (Won't Let Go) (12" version)
To Each His Own
Review: Given the stone-cold-classic status of Patrice Rushen's disco-era recordings on Elektra, it's little surprise to see Strut offering up this superb retrospective of that key period in her career. Naturally, the big club hits are present - "Feels So Real (Can't Let Go)", "Haven't You Heard", "Number One" and "Forget Me Nots" - but it's the quality of the lesser celebrated cuts and album tracks that most impresses. For proof, check the sharp horns and good grooves of "Look Up (Extended Version)", the breezy boogie bounce of "Never Gonna Give You Up (Won't Let You be)" and the electric piano solo-laden seductiveness of "Remind Me (LP Version)". There's naturally plenty of sweet slow jams to savour, too, those to our ears these pale in comparison to Rushen's dancefloor-focused output.
Review: Tenderlonious' prolific explorations of contemporary jazz continue unabated with this new album from his supergroup, Ruby Rushton. With Mo Kolours and Yussef Dayes (formerly of Yussef Kamaal) amongst the highly skilled players in this ensemble, the quality spilling out of their fourth album need not be questioned. The band leader's signature flute stylings skip and twirl across the top of the music, with the overall brew striking that elusive but oh-so-sweet balance between loose, free-wheeling expression and rock solid groove. Fresh and satisfying at every turn, this is proof of why the modern jazz scene is so vibrant right now. Ruby Rushton can do no wrong!
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