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: 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: The 62nd single in Mr Bongo's long-running Brazil 45s series is notable for containing Jose Prates' "Nana Imboro", a deep, hypnotic and intoxicating samba cut that was initially recorded and released way back in 1958. Relatively slow and steady by samba standards, its chanted refrain is thought to be the inspiration for Jorge Ben's much better known "Mas Que Nada". Wisely, Mr Bongo has backed Prates' sublime original with a 1960 cover by obscure Polish outfit Wroblewski Jazz Quintet. This dispenses with the chanting, instead increasing the number of intertwined horn parts. Given that original copies of the rare Polish EP it first appeared on will set you back serious money, it's great to see this fine cover included here.
Review: It's been a long time between drinks for Present Sense, a Finnish combo helmed by experienced jazz bassist Jarno Lappalainen. Research confirms that the previous Pressent Sense single landed way back in 2004. For this return to the studio, American jazz vocalist Dean Bowman has joined in the fun. His Gregory Porter style vocals seemingly soar above the band's lilting, emotion-rich jazz on A-side "In The Present", with each musician getting solo space in the track's magical final moments. Turn to the B-side for "The Time", a more up-tempo jazz workout full of alternating horn solos and superb double bass playing by Lappalainen.
Review: "Paunetto's Point", by Bobby Vince Paunetto, is a landmark in seventies Latin and jazz music. Easily one of the most unique voices of his generation, Bobby's got an approach to melody that's all tied up in the rhythms - one that has most of the instruments in the group vamping along with the grooves, while solos take off in wonderful flights that soar to the skies on waves of sound and soul. Don't miss this historical slab of wax.
Review: Few contemporary jazz songwriters have emerged with such demonstrative authenticity and clarity as Gregory Porter. Liquid Spirit continues where the prolific artist left us with Be Good and Water; soulful, funky and galvanised in honest emotion. Echoing foundation-setting singers such as Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield and even further back to the likes of Sammy Davis Junior, Porter flings us from vibe to vibe with precision-written lyrics and emphatic delivery. Highlights include the double-bass slapping stomper "Liquid Spirit", the boogie-fuelled "The In Crowd", the Cullum-esque "When Love Was King" and the tear-jerking finale "Water Under Bridges." Beautiful business.
Review: It would be fair to say that Gregory Porter is a man on the rise. In the four years since he made his debut, the jazz singer-songwriter has become one of the most name-checked soul men on the planet. Take Me To The Alley, his first album for three years, sees him flexing his musical muscles more impressively than ever before. After opening with the beautiful Marvin Gaye style "Holding On", and Curtis Mayfield-goes jazz thrills of "Don't Lose Your Steam", the singer-songwriter runs through a series of up-tempo and down-tempo compositions that sit somewhere between classic soul and evocative jazz.
Review: Not to get all emotional and stuff but, as some of you may already know, Jazz Semai is officially the first jazz album to get recorded in Turkey. The 1978 juggernaut is a collector's item, seemingly impossible to find in its original format, so it's kind of a big deal that Rainbow 45 have managed to find the rights and press up some new vinyl copies for us all - a true xmas present! The infamous Erol Pakcan leads on drums, Tuna Otenel resides all over the pianos, and Kudret Oztoprak delivers the bass and extra percussive wonder. Together, these three conjured what is a beautifully diverse and playful jazz LP, full of twists and corners, subtle Turkish influences, but also plenty of sounds and styles adopted from the American school of thought. All in all, it's a special and important album, both musically, historically, and politically. Don't miss it.
Review: While moving from his long-term home Chicago to Los Angeles a few years back, Tortoise member Jeff Parker rediscovered a swathe of old home recordings - "beat projects" built around samples of dusty old jazz tracks. These became the starting point for New Breed, his most expansive solo album for some time. Full of his usual loose and evocative jazz guitar, the set sits somewhere between lo-fi post-rock/jazz fusion, experimental hip-hop, and softly spun electronica. Regardless of style, it's a hugely evocative and entertaining collection of tracks.
Review: Esteemed composer Piero Umiliani released scores of music in his lifetime from the famous to the obscure, but his forays into jazz continue to be a delight for diggers the world over. Here Galaxy present Storia E Prehistoria, recorded under his alias Rovi and originally released in 1972. It's a stirring collection of music that touches on soundtrack themes throughout, capturing the sound of the era impeccably while sporting Umiliani's inimitable touch in the same breath. The album is full of sumptuous orchestrations of brass, keys, harp and more besides, each piece loaded with romance and cool as could only come from Italy.
Review: Even by the notoriously stargazing standards of early '80s jazz funk, Potter & Tillman's sought-after 1982 album Space Rapture is particularly intergalactic. Here reissued for the first time on vinyl since it slipped out on the duo's own private press imprint, Poet, the album remains a stunning set of tracks. While there are plenty of familiar jazz-funk and jazz-fusion tropes throughout - sleazy sax solos, meandering electric piano solos, loose-limbed drumming and occasional freestyle vocals - it's the mind-altering, spacey way in which these elements are combined that stands out. The album's futurist vibe is emphasized further by their decision to employ plenty of spacey analogue synthesizers throughout. It's this, as much as the quality of the duo's compositions, which hits home hardest.
Review: Gregory Porter's rise to superstar status has been built on a string of fine albums that blur the boundaries between soul and contemporary jazz. This time around, he's decided to do something different, delivering a heartfelt and well-meaning tribute to the work of legendary jazz vocalist Nat King Cole. Musically, there are few surprises, with Porter and his musical collaborators largely recreating the sweeping, string-drenched sound familiar from Nat King Cole's work. Porter is arguably a more powerful and versatile vocalist than Cole - and, yes, we're aware that this is a bold claim - so he somehow gets a little more out of familiar staples such as "Nature Boy", "Smile" and "Mona Lisa". It wouldn't be a Nat King Cole tribute without some festive fare, so it's fitting to see Porter include a fine cover of "The Christmas Song".
Review: Few have done more to popularize British jazz than Courtney Pine. Since bursting onto the scene 30 years ago, he's delivered a swathe of fine albums, many of which have crossed over into the mainstream. His latest full-length excursion, Black Notes From The Deep, has the potential to be big, too. As well as including a range of traditionalist jazz compositions - most of which are laidback and put Pine's mazy sax solos front and centre - the album boasts fusion tracks inspired by hip-hop and broken beat. Old friend and long-serving British soul man Omar makes a number of guest appearances, with the snappy, beautiful and breakbeat-driven cover of Herbie Hancock's "Butterfly" standing out.