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: 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: Two crucial moments from Gil Scott Heron's immense repertoire; "When You Are Who You Are" takes the lead. Taken from his 1971 album Pieces Of A Man, it's a straight up homage to clarity and honesty told in the context that only Gil knew best. Flip for a very special alternative take of "Free Will". The title track of his following album, released a year later in 1972, the variations of this take (which has never been released on vinyl before) are subtle but strong enough to justify it a place in your collection.
Review: A staple of the Australian Music scene, pals Lewis Moody, Ziggy Zeigeist and Matthew Hayes of Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange offer-up their second album, a collection of jaunty jazz-funk, jazz-house and spaced-out jams guaranteed to improve your mood in these most troubling of times. There's much to enjoy from start to finish, from the fizzing dancefloor jazz rush of "Logan's Run" and the synth-sporting Afro-jazz/jazz-funk fusion of "Candy Flip", to the bubbly boogie-jazz positivity of "River Run Deep" and the hazy house warmth of "Still Swag", a kind of update of the mid 1990s St Germain sound that's worth the entrance fee on its own.
Review: Hands up all of those who thought Basement Jaxx's Simon Ratcliffe would end up making slowly unfurling spiritual jazz with famed London improvisers Binker Golding (saxophone) and Moses Boyd (drums)? Us neither. To give Ratcliffe credit, this debut single from his new jazz-wise project is simply stunning. Golding's wild sax solos and Boyd's brilliant drumming catch the ear and provide an air of authenticity, but it's Ratcliffe's contributions - drowsy sunrise electronics and meditative synthesizer motifs on A-side "Village Of The Sun", sparkling piano motifs on "Ted" and warm bass on both - that tie everything together and ensure that both tracks are worth far more than the sum of their parts. A surprise, yes, but the results are both thrilling and spellbinding.
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: 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.
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: 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: 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: 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.
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: 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: Nicola Conte and Gianluca Petrella follow up last year's beautiful "African Spirits / New World Shuffle" with two more lavish instrumentals. "Sun Song" lives up to its name with wave after wave of heated musicianship from the belting harmonies to the light-touch keys. "Nigeria" taps deep into the source too as it drives us through the heart of Lagos with full horns and sweeping keys. Spiritual, sun-splashed and vital.
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: 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: 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: 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: Finnish trio Mopo earned plenty of plaudits for their most recent album (their fourth in total), "Mopocalypse". It's from that fine set that A-side "Riisto" is taken. Given that the track is a deliciously fuzzy, low-slung floor-rocker - think distorted, Afro-funk influenced horns, frenetic drums and a heavy, full-throttle bassline reminiscent of some of the heaviest '60s and '70s deep funk records known to humanity - it's an inspired choice of single. The B-side is pretty darn tasty, too. Groovier and more relaxed with decidedly psychedelic analogue synth action (presumably provided by guest collaborator Jimi Tenor), "Acid Panama" is every bit as inspired as "Riisto" in its own peculiar way.
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.