Review: The legendary Roy Ayers has a wealth of great material to his name but Virgin Ubiquity: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1981 might just be the cream of the crop. It's packed with gold that fuses soul and funk, jazz and disco into a load of killer cuts that never got their own release. There are husky vocal tracks featuring Merry Clayton on "Oh What A Lonely Feeling," "I Really Love You" and "What's the T?", sensual soul stirrers from Carla Vaughn such as "Mystic Voyage" and "Together Forever" and of course liquid synths and rhythm sections underpinning each of the tracks.
Review: The latest on-point release from reissue specialists Wewantsounds is a much-needed new edition of Billy Brooks' hard-to-find 1974 set, Windows of the Mind. The album has long been sought after by record collectors, partly because one of its tracks (the superb 'Fourty Days') provided one of the stand-out samples on A Tribe Called Quest classic 'Luck of Lucien', but mostly because it's exceptionally good. For proof, check the bombastic fusion of Blaxploitation funk and big-band jazz that is opener 'Rockin' Julius', the effortlessly slick and fluid jazz guitar solos of 'Coolin' It', the swinging late night jazz-club tidiness of 'The Speechmaker', and the car-chase soundtrack craziness of 'Good News Blues'.
Review: Pepite Records have a brilliant Holy Grail reissue on their hands here with two world music oddities that send seasoned collectors into fits of excitement. They come from French composer Jean Claude Oliver, who was a noted talent in his day and possible the first Parisian to own a sitar in the sixties. He worked with Serge Gainsbourg amongst others, while also working as Derboukas. Two of his finest experiments are served up for the first time here and mixes oriental vibes with eastern bossa. The original of the a-side is impossible to find and the 'Caravan March' gem on the B-side is a welcome addition that fuses psychedelic pop grooves with lush cello.
Review: Here's something to seriously set the pulse racing: a limited-edition quintuple "Brazil 45s" boxset curated by the effervescent DJ Format, and featuring ten tracks unearthed on his most recent crate-digging trip to South America. In keeping with his much-loved style, most of the material can be loosely described as "psyche break-beat", all of which was initially recorded and released in the 1960s and '70s. That means a blend of hallucinatory Brazilian funk and soul rich in sweaty, often densely layered drums, booming basslines, trippy vocals, eccentric production, mazy Hammond organ lines and rousing horns. The quality bar is set so high that picking individual highlights is tough; suffice to say, you need all ten tunes in your life (and in your record box).
Review: This majestic jazz love letter was written in 2015. It was Hokkaido pianist Ryo Fukui's last album and now gets an official reissue allowing us all to once again sink into his personal contemporary jazz offering. Fukui is celebrated for his delicate styles and miraculous albums such as 1976's Scenery and a year later, Mellow Dream. He was not only a player, but also a club owner having linked up with his wife Yasuko to open his very own jazz space, Slowboat, in Sapporo in 1995. In the years after he honed and perfected his craft, taking it to new labels as heard here.
Review: Japanese jazz pianist Ryo Fukui is one of the most delicate and skilled payers of his generation. The Hokkaido pianist also owned his own jazz club, Slowboat, with his wife Yasuko, and this month two of his bets loved albums are being reissued with a special half speed remastering job. This one is a recording of him playing in New York with Lisle Atkinson on bass and Leroy Williams on drums. It was laid down in 1999 and inspired by Ryo's mentor Barry Harris. There are plenty of poetic reworks of classics and glowing piano pieces that easily wander their way into your heart.
Review: Earlier in the year, Japanese label HHV delivered a vinyl reissue of Ryo Fukui's final album, 2016's touching tribute to the jazz club in Soporo he co-founded, Showboat. Now Swiss imprint We Release Jazz have offered up the very same album on CD, at a price that will be far more attractive to listeners on this side of the world. It's worth picking up because in our opinion A Letter From Showboat should be considered a contemporary piano jazz classic. Fukui is on fine form throughout, and it's his fluid and expressive solos that make the album sing. The late pianist's accompanying musicians make their presence felt at just the right time, too, with their best work coming on the album's more up-tempo workouts (think 'Speak Low; 'Soultrane' and 'Sonora').
Review: Swiss imprint We Release Jazz (an offshoot of the more eclectic WRWTFWW) seems to specialize in reissuing rare and hard-to-find European and Japanese albums. Their latest release falls into the latter category. Originally recorded at Avatar Studios in New York in 1999 and released in Japan only the following uear, Ryo Fukui in New York is undoubtedly a little-known gem. With just bassist Lisle Atkinson and drummer Leroy Wlliams for company, it sees the virtuoso Japabese pianist offer up superb takes on bop and modal classics by such luminaries as Charlie Parker, George Gershwin and Cole Porter. The album also boasts an incredible re-make of his own 'Mellow Dream' that's infinitely better than his already impressive original recording.