Review: Born on the French Island of Martinique, Louis Xavier later settled in France where he discovered the freedom of jazz, and an idea to mix his influences into a global melting pot of sound. He formed his band (Synchro Rhythmic Eclectic Language) in Paris in the early '70s, making music that was both spiritual and eclectic for its time. Both tracks are jazz in essence but with instrumental funky rhythms infused with intricate percussion and electric keys.
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: 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!
Review: First up: Tito Puente (AKA The Musical Pope) with an epic live version of "2001 Space Odyssey". Recorded at Carnegie Hall in 1974 it's never been pressed to 45 during its highly sought-after 41 years. Flip for the hard jazz sounds of Sahib Shihab and "Om Mani Padme Hum" is riddled with thundering percussion and lightening crack pianos. It has flutes so frenetic they'd make Ian Anderson blush and takes its name from an ancient Sanskrit word. Biblical business.
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: 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: 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: Cuban bandleader, composer and rumba magician Ramon Santamaria had a huge influence throughout his 40 year career, notably writing Coltrane's famous "Afro Blue". Here are two of many stand-out cuts from his 1963 album Watermelon Man! While most the album's focus was on his Herbie Hancock cover, it's tracks like these that really gave the album its spirit and unique character; "Yeh Yeh!" is a samba shaking horn-led cut laced with crackling percussion and party cries while "Get The Money" leans back with rhythm and blues sass and a rhythm that's as powerful as Ramon's legacy. Moneymaker shaking guaranteed.
Review: The first release from the Axis Audiophile Series. Jeff Mills has formed an electronic jazz fusion band and this 12? is a recording of their recent performance in Kobe during the TodaysArt.JP Festival. Mills manages the decks, drums and percussion and is joined Detroit legend and Underground Resistance stalwart Gerald Mitchell (Los Hermanos/Galaxy 2 Galaxy), keyboardist Yumiko Ohno and bassist Kenji Jino. "Eventide" has the same kind of urban, uplifting soul as anything Kaidi Thatham or Mark de Clive-Lowe have made and isn't bad at all! On the flip "Happy Gamma Ray" features uplifting keys and emotive chords backed by funk bass and one of Mills' unmistakeable 909 drum machine workouts. It really seems that there's no limit to this Motor City legend's creativity which has spanned nearly 30 years and we're excited about this new chapter in the Wizard's sonic universe.
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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: Kalita Records are proud and honoured to announce the first ever official reissue of the four choice tracks from Randolph Baker's privately pressed sought-after 1982 disco album 'Reaching For The Stars', plus an unreleased instrumental take of 'Party Life' sourced from the original 24-track analogue master tapes.
Originally recorded at Jim Morris and Rick Miller's Tampa-based Morrisound Studios, 'Getting Next To You' features both a mixture of both local Florida talent plus jazz superstar Nat Adderley and bassist John Lamb at their finest. Originally pressed in a limited run of just one-thousand copies, with no distribution and most copies being sold in the local city and on Randolph's own merchandise table at the back of live gigs, original copies have long been sought-after by both collectors and DJs alike, acknowledged as a true grail and masterpiece in the disco scene and deservedly demanding extortionate figures to those lucky enough to find their own.
Here, in collaboration with Randolph, Kalita Records have chosen to re-release the four choice tracks from the album: 'Getting Next To You', 'Jazzman', 'Callin' Me' and 'Party Life'. The former is an in-demand horn and chant-filled disco masterpiece, which, as Randolph explains, concerns unity and "everyone on the same level in other words, everyone just loving life". It is arguably the song that Randolph is most well-known for in the disco and funk scene and perfect for the modern discerning dance floor. 'Jazzman' is an instrumental track with prominent trumpet and saxophone solos working with funky basslines to produce a truly great jazz-funk groove. It was "a tribute to Nat Adderley and Duke Ellington's bass player, John Lamb, for being so generous and saying yes to the project". 'Callin' Me' is a soulful disco number featuring the lead vocals of Laurie Erickson and is "about being on the road and ensuring loved ones that you will always come back home no matter what. It was like a promise to ensure loved ones they didn't have to worry". Lastly, 'Party Life' is a joyous disco track with a strong funk bassline and horns. As Randolph recalls, it "was the joy like after an actor finishes a movie. There was nothing but joy. It's finished; let's celebrate big time. Where everyone in the studio yelled at the top of their lungs - The End!" Here, with access to the 24-track master tapes we have been able to include the original version plus an unreleased instrumental take, allowing us to focus on the infectious bassline and make it even more ready for the modern dance floor.
Accompanied by extensive interview-based liner notes and never-before-seen photos.
Review: Matthew Halsall's Gondwana label is seeing a busy August what with the imprint flooding our jazz charts with reissues and, of course, new releases such as this wonderful collaborative effort from The Gondwana Orchestra and Dwight Trible. Trible's voice is like silk, running up and down the delicate waves of melodies from the collective, with "Colors" and "The Creator Has A Master Plan" both capable of making the toughest of audiences feel utterly uplifted. On the flip, "Love Is Everywhere" shines bright amid a flurry of flutes and intricate drum percussions, while "You've Got To Have Freedom" rides off a much smoother, deeper sort of vibe that's got a little funk at its core. Wicked.
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: 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.