Review: Brit-funk combo 52nd Street are undeniably best-known for their 1983 single on Factory Records, "Look Into My Eyes", which came accompanied by some killer remixes from John "Jellybean" Benitez and sailed closed to the NYC electro sound. The Manchester outfit's roots were in jazz-funk though, as this essential reissue of their 1982 debut single proves. "Look Into My Eyes" is simply superb: a warm, woozy and gently groovy affair full of attractive lead vocals, elastic slap bass, colourful synthesizer lines and dreamy chords. If you're after some more up-tempo dancefloor pressure, check out flipside "Express" - a riotous affair rich in hammered-out Clavinet lines, jaunty lead lines and energetic percussion.
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: 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: "The dampness of the rainforest, the hostility of the mangrove ultimately did not suit him. So he left his natural environment for the tranquillity of a freshwater body". So goes the (translated) back story of this new EP from Laurent Bardainne. The 'he' in question is a Tiger who ventured across Europe, Asia and America and apparently picked up various musical styles along the way. Whatever you make of that, the tracks here are gold: "Marvin" is smooth jazz fusion with percolating drums, "Porsche 944" has a joyous lead sax and more crisp boom bap drums, while "Aout" is a soaring bit of heartfelt soul Daptone might put out. The Drop Vibes rework of "Porsche 944" features a vocal roller and closes things in fine fashion.
Review: Moochin' About's Record Store Day 2017 offering is something of a treat for jazz fans: a tasty 10" featuring an unreleased Alice Coltrane improvisation, recorded in Poland in 1987, on one side, and a delightful etching of a lotus flower on the other. Musically, the A-side sees Coltrane in harpist mode, delivering a spontaneous workout the rapidly jumps between strummed chords, plucked notes and frequent bursts of twinkling melody. At some points, it's blissful and becalmed, at others fizzes with the same kind of excitement you'd expect from freestyle jazz. At nearly 12 minutes in length it's something of an epic, but will hold your attention throughout.
Review: For the second salvo on Cornhusker Records, the publicity-shy crew is treating us to a quartet of re-edits starting impressively with "Easily", a floor-focused rearrangement of a slap bass, woodblock and sax-heavy chunk of jazz-funk goodness, before turning a jaunty Mizell Brothers cut into a rolling house groover. The fun continues on side B, where the sweaty percussive Hammond funk of "Launchpad" is followed by head-in-the-clouds delight "Bring It", a subtle scalpel rework of a Clavinet-sporting Blaxploitation era disco-funk workout. Given the variety and quality on show, this has the feel of a record that might stay in your "playing out" box for a while.
Review: Herbie Hancock has been responsible for many era-defining records over the years - "Rockit" being a particularly good example - but few of his compositions have been quite as game changing as "Chameleon". First featured on 1973 album "Head Hunters", the 15-minute epic was revolutionary in a number of ways, not least in its use of a killer 12-note bassline, "percussive" style guitar parts and loose-limbed funk beat. It remains one of the greatest jazz-funk moments of all time, as this timely reissue proves. This time round, it comes accompanied by another "Head Hunters" classic - Hancock's groovy, synth-laden re-recording of his own 1962 composition "Watermelon Man". Two stone cold classics for the price of one: what's not to like?
Review: Last year, Nunorthern Soul unveiled the first part of their Ryo Kawasaki retrospective. While that focused on selected works created by the Japanese jazz guitarist between 1979 and '83 - including a couple of strong nods towards disco - this follow-up looks at material recorded and released between '76 and '80. There's plenty to enjoy, from the Abbey Road-era Beatles-meets-Courtney Pine vibes of "Snowstorm" and George Benson-in-space trip of "Quasar Infection", to the freestyle, synth-laden jazz-funk madness that is "Nogie". Arguably best of all, though, is "Thunder & Sea Gypsies (Medley)", an impossible-to-pigeonhole journey that moves from krautrock style looseness to cosmic jazz via some thrillingly psychedelic wig-outs.
Review: Hot on the heels of "Mission" earlier this year, Shuya Okino's Kyoto Jazz Sextet troupe present another gem from last year's Unity album complete with a remix of the highest calibre. This time the cascading, Latin rhythm and frenetic horn leads of "Rising" are given the midas dancefloor touch by none other than Ron Trent. Maintaining the wily spirit of the original while coating in warm organ blasts and subtly bumping kicks, it's a precision translation that brings the original into a whole new context.
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: 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: ** REPRESS ALERT ** 2019 marks 50 years since this timeless classic's original release. The Peddlers' "On A Clear Day You Can See Forever' is a sumptuous smooth jazz journey full of organ solos and deep vocal tones. The British soul/jazz trio is known for creating a unique melange of beat, jazz, cabaret, rock and soul that must be heard to be believed. Flip side "Comin' Home Baby" is like passing through a cloud composed of equal parts Tom Jones, Jimmy Smith, Georgie Fame, Mel Torme, Alan Hawkshaw and dozens of lesser jazz/lounge vibe-creators. Get this copy for a spine-tingling rush of harmony from the late sixties.
Review: Dynamite Cuts & The George Semper Music Archives present the first official re-issue of the Funk and Soul band The Perfect Circle from their 1977 self titled The Perfect Circle, LP. The peak of George Semper's music legacy as a "Godfather of Bay Area Funk" and "Hammond B3 Hero" Semper produced, performed on, and released the LP on his Los Angeles based Inner City Records label. The Perfect Circle band is known for their "Bay Area Funk" San Francisco/Oakland sound a unique fusion of funk, jazz, soul, & rock akin to bands Tower of Power and War. The Perfect Circle, LP has since become rare-vinyl grail among DJs, music lovers and collectors worldwide! A superb work, we chose our two favorites leading with the disco-funk dancer title track introducing the band The Perfect Circle. On the flip side is the rare groove The Hands of Time, a b-boy, disco, jazz-funk floor shaker. Don't miss out on The Perfect dancer, DJs tool and one for the collectors!
Review: Founded in 2017, Ronin Arkestra is a fusionist jazz/electronica collective from Tokyo founded by broken beat keys-man Mark de Clive-Lowe. Given that the band includes some of the finest players in Japan's contemporary jazz scene - most notably members of Kyoto Jazz Massive, WONK and Sleepwalker - you'd expect this first outing on Albert's Favourites to be rather good. It is, of course, with the band sashaying between dubbed-out soundscape jazz ("Stranger Searching"), sun-bright jazz-funk influenced positivity ("Redeye Reprisal"), loose-limbed, semi-improvised intensity ("The Silk Road Prelude") and, most notably, an awe-inspiring 21st century re-imagining of John Coltrane classic "A Love Supreme".
Review: Touchingly, the A side of latest single from Ruby Rushton is a tribute to de facto bandleader Tenderlonious' father, who spent many years working in Nepal. Entitled "Sun Khosi", the track is a brilliantly summery blast of percussive, Afro-fired jazz fusion laden with sweat-soaked horn blasts, snaking Latin trumpet lines, deep Rhodes notes and inspired alto flute solos from Tenderlonious. B-side "Chrysalis" was composed by keys-player Adrian Shepherd and was influenced by the style of one of his inspirations, jazz pianist John Taylor. It's up-tempo, bold, hugely enjoyable, electric piano-heavy and sits somewhere between jazz-funk and the kind of jazz-fusion fare made famous by Azymuth.
Review: Names You Can Trust snapped up Peruvian salsa band Sabor y Control in 2017 after hearing their self-released debut album "La Contra Violencia". Here the Bruno Macher-helmed band returns with their first single for the esteemed Brooklyn imprint in nigh on two years. "Dispara Ya" was arguably worth the wait, though. Summery, effervescent and suitably percussive, it's a killer slab of dancefloor salsa rich in lilting group vocals, Tito Puente style rhythms and horns straight out of a 1960s boogaloo record. Flipside "Territorio Y Honor", whose horn arrangements are a little bit more complex, is equally as impressive.
Review: Most experts agree that Archie Shepp's 1972 album "Attica Blues" is one of the finest soul-jazz LPs ever made - a politically-charged affair that just gets better with every listen. This tidy seven-inch single from Mr Bongo offers up two of the album's standout moments. On the A-side you'll find the title track, a swirling, down-low mixture of belted-out female chorus vocals, surging orchestration, Blaxploitation style bottom end and an impassioned lead vocal from Henry Hull. Flipside cut "Quiet Dawn" sees Waheeda Massey take lead vocals over a more obviously jazz-centric backing track rich in wild sax solos from the effervescent Shepp. Like the A-side, it's simply essential.
Review: M.A BEAT!'s Adrien Legay returns to Black Milk Music with his brand new project The Storm Watchers. Joined by Alexandre Weppe on Rhodes, Julen Moneret on double bass and Nicolas Gegout on tenor sax, their first forecast is a strong one; "Billy's Castle" is a bewitching, smoky brew of tension and soft release as the sax takes the lead of Legay's twinkling percussion. "The Pusher" has much more of an unpredictable narrative as we're hurled from horn hurricane to glistened keys and back again with a brilliant sense of pace. The storm's a-brewing and we suspect it's only going to get heavier...
Review: With no less than nine releases on the label to their name already, Black Cash & Theo AKA Thelonious Beats are Galaxy Sound Co's most experienced editors. Here they deliver another fantastic "45" packed with righteous grooves and life-affirming jazz moves. It's the latter that comes to the fore on side A's "Flute Thing", a sweet and seductive drift through picturesque jazz territory with some additional loose-limbed drum solos edited in halfway through. "Do What You Gotta Do" on the other hand is a simmering, string-laden soul treat rich in killer instrumentation, sumptuous orchestration, chunky grooves and hazy vocals. It's a fine edit of a superb cut and easily the record's standout cut.