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: Building on the heat of last year's "Devil Made Me Do It", Alex Puddu's Afro Soul Prophecy returns with more smoking jazz fusions. "Red Light District" is as hot and illicit as the title suggests thanks to its prominent drums and heated horn work. "The Game Of Love" plays the perfect counter with its much softer, sentimental swoons and loungey dynamics. Instant summer soul soothers.
Review: With a career stretching back to the turn of the '90s, Stefano 'S-Tone' Sirone has long been one of Italy's foremost purveyors of jazz-fired goodness. Last year he returned to action with "Onda", a brilliant set of jazz-funk, disco, samba and deep house fusion that also marked his first album-length excursion for four years. This nifty seven-inch offers up two new interpretations of one of that collection's standout tracks, "Luz Da Joaca", by fellow Italian nu-jazz veteran Gerardo Frisina. On the A-side, he turns it into a Clavinet-sporting chunk of samba-house fusion rich in layered percussion and '70s style Brazilian jazz-funk vocals. The flipside dub, an altogether heavier and more percussively intense affair, is arguably even better.
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: Alex Puddu's Afro Soul Prophecy project continues to blaze into the year with pure molten lava grooves. "Daddy's Groove" is a perfect summer heater with its laid back horns that ooze over the wah wah licks and strutting rim-shots. "Let Me Be Your Lover" takes more of a Latin approach with its upbeat rhythm and bossa tendencies. Listen out for those cosmic guitars in the background... Dreamy business.
Review: A timely revisit to two of the stand out covers on Italian jazz/lounge posterboy Andrea Balducci's 2012 album Bloom. "Spooky" is a soft, sweet and succinctly measured take on Shapiro and Middlebrooks' mid 60s standard while "Hurts So Bad" is a respectful twist on Weinstein, Harshman and Randazzo's similar era classic that was made famous by Linda Ronstadt years later.
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: Italian Latin jazz stalwart Nicola Conte first joined forces with trombonist Gianluca Petrella way back in 2001 on the nu-jazz era "New Standards" single. The pair started working on new material in 2014 and the "Free Your Mind EP" is their third joint release since. They're in a surprisingly up-beat, club-ready mood on EP opener "Free Your Mind", where Ebo Taylor style guitars, Africa 70 organs, tasty vocal samples and Afrobeat style horn lines are underpinned by a relaxed deep house groove. Vocalist Bridgette Amofah stars on the EP's other two cuts: the percussive tribal jazz of highlight "Imani River" and epic B-side "Infinity", a superb chunk of Afro-tinged deep house that sounds like it was inspired by Kai Alce and Ron Trent records.
Review: Although little known in the UK, Sicilian singer Mario Biondi has sold huge amounts of records in his native Italy. It's not surprising, really, given the quality of his Barry White-esque deep and soulful vocal style. Here he pops up on Schema, offering up the seductive, slow dance-friendly silkiness of "Never Stop Dreaming" and the warm and groovy Philly Soul revivalism "Stay With Me". That track is given the once over by fellow Italian LTJ Xperience. Interestingly, his full vocal remix is faster, warmer and looser than his normal metronomic productions, while retaining his usual DJ-friendly grooves. His soulful house style instrumental Dub is pretty darn tasty, too.
Review: Last spotted on wax together 16 years ago on New Standards, Italian kindred spirits and diggers Conte and Petrella collide once again. A culmination of many records savoured and ideas shared between the two friends, this 12" is long overdue and fizzes with fusion. "African Spirit" is focused on a rolling tribal MAW style house rhythm with Gianluca adding his signature trombone with staccato finesse while "New World Shuffle" is a much dreamier, smoky affair that sounds perfect any time between sunset and sunrise. Spiritual.
The Devil Made Me Do It (The Invisible Cosmic Echoes version) (4:51)
The Devil Made Me Do It (The Invisible Astral Wave version) (4:30)
Review: Like many drummers, Alex Puddu has long been inspired by the work of Tony Allen. He pays tribute to the legendary Nigerian sticks-man on "The Devil Made Me Do It", a sumptuous dose of groovy downtempo Afrobeat laden with Allen-style polyrhythms, Africa '70 horns and lashings of eyes-closed electric piano solos. On the flip you'll find two different interpretations from Puddu. The first, subtitled "The Invisible Cosmic", doffs a cap to the Afro-cosmic world of Daniele Baldelli while retaining much of the warmth and musicality of the original mix. "The Invisible Astral" version is an altogether more spaced-out dub, with Puddu smothering the drums and horns in copious amounts of tape echo.
Review: On his latest album, Italian nu-jazz hero Gerardo Frisina displays a rawer side to his electronic music style, whilst merging it with his typical Latin crossover. The Rhythmic Conversations LP comes courtesy of Milan's Schema - an imprint which he's become a stalwart of. He takes aesthetics from Cuba, South America and Africa then crosses the Atlantic Ocean: incorporating percussive and tribal elements via the dancefloor. Highlights include the colourful Afro-jazz explosion of "Camaguey", the sweltering and hypnotic raindance that is "Arawak" (featuring some of the most sublime polyrhythms we've heard in a while) plus the deep and lo-slung spiritualism of "Yeha".
Review: Gerardo's first new material since last year's album Movement, the "Olympia" EP sees the Milano musician return to his club roots with five of his most floor-focused cuts. From the Shiffrin-style guitars and Jorge Ben licks of the dramatic cinematic title track we head deep into the dance by way of the cadent Latin soul of "Tin Tin Deo", the Hammond-squeezing "Talking Sticks" and the percussion-primed heads-down Arabic charms of "East Breeze". We climax with "The Obsession", a thumping drum-focussed samba number that tips a big nod to the likes of Master At Work.
Review: This deliberately mysterious outfit hailed from Italy, and this, the first of two previously ultra-rare and highly collectible LPs, is no less than a psychedelic classic, chock full of wild keyboards, fuzz guitar rampage, blissed-out trance states and fearful avant-garde trickery. It's been ascertained that Braen's Machine was the work of heralded soundtrack composer Perio Ulimani, as well as Morricone collaborator Allesandro Allesandroni, and this would make perfect sense, as "Underground" is very much in the metier of Italian soundtrack legends Goblin, and bound to appeal to fans of the widescreen psych sweep of Aphrodite's Child. Bellisima.