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: Roberto Aglieri is a noted Italian flutist and composer, and his 1987 album Ragapadani stands as one of his finest achievements. Archeo Recordings are ever hip to the finest treasures hidden away in the folds of esoteric music, Italian or otherwise, and have done a great service in reissuing the album so that it might reach a wider audience. Aglieri's flute sounds haunting and evocative over the range of delicate synth treatments, largely orbiting the minimal realm but with a naive charm that makes the music wholly accessible at the same time. Soothing, thoughtfully crafted music for tender times.
Review: The buzz around this sophomore set from Bahrandi-born British jazz musician Yazz Ahmed has been palpable. One critic even described it as a "modern jazz masterpiece", and it's easy to see why. While rooted in numerous now traditional jazz styles, it also mines the jauntiness of jazz-funk and draws huge influence from Arabic musical culture. As a result, La Saboteuse is packed full of intoxicating, beautifully performed highlights. Check, for example, the gently foreboding movements of the trumpet and clarinet-laden "Jamil Jamal", the trippy ambient electronica/jazz fusion of "The Space Between The Fish and the Moon" and the skittish, vibraphone-heavy epic that is "Organ Eternal". Simply essential.
Review: Unlike much of Ennio Morricone collaborator Alessandro Alessandroni's work, 1974 set "Prisma Sonoro" was not the soundtrack to a well-known film or TV show, but rather a collection of instrumental pieces composed for a music library. It's long been regarded as one of the finest examples of Italian library music around, so it's great seeing it get the reissue treatment. Much of it is pleasingly cheery, sunny and laidback, with Alessandroni doffing a cap to folk, samba and MPB as much as easy listening, classical and soundtrack style jazz. It's typical of his versatility, of course, with the intricacy of the arrangements and subtle musical details making it a set that you can return to time and time again.
Review: Tony Allen is on record as saying that The Source, his first album on iconic jazz label Blue Note, is the best recording he's made. Given his length of service and vast discography, that's a bold claim. Certainly, it's a fine album, with the legendary drummer and his selected musicians - mostly jazz players from Paris, plus a Cameroonian guitarist and previous Allen collaborator Damon Albarn on one cut - effortlessly blur the boundaries between Afrobeat and the kind of jazz pioneered by Allen's percussion heroes Art Blakey and Max Roach. It's a brilliant hybrid that fits Allen's unique style of drumming like a glove, and there's no doubt that the former Fela Kuti sticks-man is the real star of the show.
Review: For the uninitiated, Ambiance was an American jazz-funk, fusion and boogie outfit fronted by spiritually minded, Nigerean born saxophonist, flautist and clarinetist Daoud Abubakar Balewa. The band's 1979 album, "Ebun", has long been sought-after by collectors, hence this timely High Jazz reissue. There's much to admire amongst the eight tracks on show, from the Afro-tinged Latin fusion flex of "Bossa Moniife" and Azymuth style jazz-funk of "Camouflage" and "Ebun", to the high-tempo intergalactic goodness of "Turnaround". Closing cut "Last Tango", a high-octane fusion of operatic style female backing vocals, dueling instrument solos and skittish jazz drums, is also sublime.