Review: 1974's Coming Right At You, the sole album from 100% Pure Poison, has long been a sought-after jazz-funk gem. Soul Brother has previously reissued the rare (and increasingly expensive) LP, though this double 7" marks the first time most of these tracks have been available on wax since 2001. Check first opener (and title track) "Windy C", a superb chunk of lolloping, laidback jazz-funk that sits somewhere between Bob James and Cymande, before turning your attention to the slow-burn soulful delights of string-laden torch song "Puppet On A Chain". Over on the second 7", "No More City, No More Country" is a more hard-spun Blaxploitation funk affair, while "Hole In My Shoe" is a horn-fired slab of J.B's style funk-soul fusion.
Review: Although best known as the lead singer of well-regarded Japanese funk-soul band O.A.S.B, Amy Akaoka has long dreamed up recording a salsa album in the style of '60s and '70s pianist and bandleader Larry Harlow. This tasty two-track 7" single is her first release in the style - the album will appear later in the year - and is as summery, breezy and life affirming as you'd expect. She begins with "Tu Jamas", where male backing vocals, jaunty pianos and her own passionate lead vocal ride a sweat-soaked salsa rhythm. Turn to the B-side for the horn-heavy delight that is breezy salsa shuffler "Solo Tu Amor". Naturally, both are hugely authentic to the style of salsa championed by Harlow.
Review: Another weighty slab of Ethiopian music history from Mr Bongo... First up is the hugely influential fusionist Mulatu Astatke with the Latin-meets-Afro jam "Assiyo Bellema". Loaded with frenetic guitars and mesmerising drum work from Frank Holder, this was actually recorded during Mulatu's time in London. Flip for an equally influential force in Ethiopian music: Soul Ekos Band affiliate Teshome Meteku with a more traditional local sound, Teshome's yearning insistent vocals wrap around the horns and tight drums like fog around a mountain. Captivating.
Review: Expansion's latest must-check seven-inch mines Roy Ayers' 1983 album "Lots Of Love", a sparkling post-disco set that combined the vibraphonist's usual jazz-funk flavours with colourful synthesizers and genuine boogie flavours. "Everybody" on the A-side is particularly potent; a lolloping synth-boogie head-nodder rich in life-affirming synthesizer squelches, rubbery jazz-funk bass, fluid Ayers vibraphone solos and background vocals that sneakily reference "Everybody Loves The Sunshine". Flipside "And Then We Were One" is if anything even more summery in feel, with mazy synth and vibraphone motifs dancing atop a killer jazz-funk groove. It's a little more up-tempo than the A-side, but arguably a little less addictive.
Review: When it comes to offering up seven-inch singles of tracks taken from classic or sought-after albums, Dynamite Cuts has an impressive track record. They're at it again here, this time mining Roy Ayers and Wayne Henderson's 1978 jazz-funk/disco fusion masterpiece "Step Into Our Life". On the A-side you'll find the languid, loose and groovy title track, a memorable affair in which dueling vibraphone and trumpet solos make merry atop a head-nodding, toe-tapping jazz-funk groove. Flipside "For Real" is a little more energetic and loved-up, with touchy-feely vocals, husling slap-bass and sci-fi synths to the fore.
Review: Despite not releasing all that much in 2018, Canadian nu-jazz combo BADBADNOTGOOD's reputation continued to rise. That was in no small part due to their eye-catching collaboration with Little Dragon, which resulted in the digital release of "Tried" back in September. Now the track has been given a deserved seven-inch single release by Ninja Tune. With LD lead vocalist Yukimi Nagano doing her best to channel the spirit of Minnie Riperton, "Tried" has a similarly languid, jazz/folk/soul fusion feel as some of the best works by Rotary Connection. BADBADNOTGOOD's admiration of the Charles Stepney-produced band comes through loud and clear through the choice of instruments and arrangements. For further proof, check the accompanying flipside instrumental mix.
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: Brazil 45s hit the quarter century in their run and show no sign of stopping. It's an all-girl affair on this one as two hugely popular and prolific singers take a spin under Mr Bongo's spotlight. Elizabeth (often known as Elizete) lays down a steamy samba flavour that gets raunchier as the track develops. Elza, meanwhile, gets busy on a Bossa tip as a carnival of percussion and horns go toe-to-toe with her sharp, sexy staccato vocals. Powerful.
Review: Storied Latin-jazz artist, composer, producer, and DJ Nicola Conte lays down a marker for his upcoming fifth studio album Free Souls with this delightful 7" of the same name. Brandishing two gens from the album, Conte's channelling soul jazz at it's purest on the title track, with a rhythm and blues arrangement that provides the perfect backing for Bridgette Amofah's gliding vocal delivery. On the B Side, "Shades Of Joy" is equally as memorable with Marvin Parks' soft croon enveloped in the smooth double bass and horn section. On the basis of this, the forthcoming album should be one of Conte's finest yet!
All The Way (feat Tyler Daley & Kaidi Tatham) (4:00)
All The Way (feat Tyler Daley & Kaidi Tatham - Flutestrumental) (3:59)
Review: A warm welcome back to the Darkhouse Family, Cardiff's finest purveyors of soul-fired instrumental hip-hop and jazz-funk flavoured broken beats. The good news is that "All The Way", which features the combined talents of guests Tyler Daley and Kaidi Tatham, is every bit as good as anything on their superb 2017 album "The Offering". The A-side original version, in particular, is superb - a languid chunk of head-nodding hip-hop soul rich in double bass, drowsy jazz horns, twinkling pianos and impassioned, emotive vocals. That said, the instrumental flipside revision, which includes extended flute solos where the vocals once say, is also impeccable.
Review: Tastemaking US jazz label International Anthem serves up this special 7" from Angel Bat Dawid in response to Emma Warren's 2019 book "Make Some Space", which told the story of London DIY music space Total Refreshment Centre. Featuring clarinets, keys and drum machines, both tracks are hugely conversational, with emotional pain and power ebbing and flowing through both originals pieces. A-side "Transition East" overflows with ideas and narrative while "No Space For Us" is more cautious and subdued, but both leave a lasting impact. The track features Angel with Ben LaMar Gay and Brazilian talents Edbrass Brasil, Romulo Alexis, Tadeu Mascarenhas, Nancy Viegas and Germano Estacio.
Review: Those with a deep knowledge of Berlin's Ghanaian ex-pat "burger-highlife" scene may already be familiar with Lee Dodou, a singer who recorded a number of classic singles and albums during the 1980s as part of bands Georg Darko and Kantata. He retired from music in 1991, but has been persuaded to return to action by the Philophon team. This comeback single is pretty impressive all told, with A-side "Basa Basa" - a triumphantly celebratory chunk of 1960s "concert party" highlife rich in punchy horn lines and Dodou's full-throated vocals - being joined on the flipside by the slower, synth-laden "Sahara Akwantou". Brilliantly, the label describes this as "kraut-life" due to its unique (and rather good) fusion of highlife and German kosmiche.
Review: For the latest missive on their excellent Jazz45 sub-label, Jazzman has decided to offer up two sought-after catalogue cuts from contemporary spiritual jazz maestro Muriel Grossmann, a sax player, singer and composer who already has a swathe of quality albums to her name. First up is an edited version of 2018 cut "Golden Rule", a wonderfully breezy and out-there affair that sees Grossmann add mind-altering sax solos to a heavily percussive, off-kilter backing track rich in jaunty pianos and slick double bass. On flipside "Okan Ti Aye" she layers up the drums and cymbals further while offering bolder, heavier sax motifs. The result is a track of rare drive and intensity.
Review: Legendary bandleader Eddie Palmieri took a rare groove excursion from his Latin legacy in the early 70s for two albums as Harlem River Drive. Criminally overlooked, Soul Brother have dusted off two of the many highlights from his self-titled debut; "Idle Hands" is a sleazy, Gaye-style message with an almost spoken word quality to the vocals and a smoky wooziness to the horns while "Seeds Of Life" is a real end-of-set belter that rises and rises with tight orchestration between the guitar, horns and drums. Incredible... This can't be slept on this time round.
Review: Following their surprise reunion and Strut-release album We Be All Africans last year, Idris and The Pyramids return... This time on Max Weissenfeldt's Philophon imprint. Laying down a spiritual arrangement so frenetic and full of its own life it takes up two parts, Idris's sax plays duet with Philophon's own vocalist Guy One. Gutsy, raw and full of surprises, it's another out-of-body experience from the longstanding jazz troupe.
Review: Thanks to a plethora of pleasing releases from the likes of Nat Birchall and Michael Grossman, 2019 has been a vintage year for Jazzman's "Jazz 45" series. The last volume of the year comes courtesy of Jai Ho, an occasional studio "supergroup" who initially met by accident in the late 1990s. In fact, A-side "Short Story From Tabla, Drums & Trumpet" was recorded in a single day in 1996. The descriptive title is accurate, with squally, effects-laden trumpet solos riding a killer backing track of military style drum breaks, exotic tabla motifs and toasty double bass. The group met again for another studio day in 2003 and recorded B-side "Oye Maia", a wonderfully lucid and languid mixture of attractive Kalimba melodies, drifting trumpet and shuffling Indian instrumentation.
Review: Back in 2017, we aptly described the Jukka Eskola Soul Trio as "the Finnish horn boss's newest project". The combo is now not so new, of course, but the trumpeter and flugelhorn player's outfit remains a go-to source for quality jazz and jazz-funk material. There's more than a little Latin flavour to be found on "Tiny B", a Hammond-powered shuffler rich in South American drum rhythms and the kind of sticky trumpet solos that were once a hallmark of Herb Alpert's records. Flipside "Stick Of A Branch" is a far more up-tempo affair, with Eskola's punchy playing riding fluid vibraphone motifs and floor-rocking jazz drums.
Review: Galaxy Sound give this 1997 hip hop classic a new twist with some slick jazz stylings. Lil Kim's "Crush On You", is known by all but here it becomes something completely different: a forgotten jazz funk gem, colourful trumpet leads awash with lush drums and timeless soul. The flipside houses a re-edit of Jeff Lorber's "Rain Dance", which is in fact the original source of the samples on Lil Kim's track, and one that has been used on more than 20 other big time tunes. Here it's subtly tweaked but still remains a classic bit of jazz-flecked hip hop with some proper rude vocals.
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: 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.