Review: Kicking around for ten-plus years in the inter-continental jazz scene is German ensemble The Bahama Soul Club who breathe new life into their project with a new album, Bohemia After Dawn! It presents the outfit's fifth studio LP which this time finds its spirit through the coastlines of Algarve where it was recorded. Drawing deep inspiration from the multicultural verve of young worldly folk drawn to the bohemian coasts of the most southwestern part of Europe - where hippiesque hedonism, infinite musical diversity, and offbeat enchanted lifestyles fuel the scene - downtempo percussion, subby beats and strong vocals ultimately meet in tracks like "Castelejo (Hommage E Vitor Hugo)". Highly relaxed, uber-cool and with a surprisingly fresh and sweet summer sound, Bohemia After Dawn delivers a unique blend of soul, jazz, funk, blues, bossa nova and multicultural sounds.
Review: Still reeling from the Linkwood & Foat self-titled collaborative LP released on Athens Of The North earlier this year, Greg Foat, a versatile mainstay in the UK jazz scene, brings in bandmates Moses Boyd, Art Themen, Clark Tracey and Phil Achille to create Symphonie Pacifique. Ebbing and flowing between ambient soul and liquid jazz in the live and improvised "After The Storm", there's lounge time flamenco in "Pointe Venus" to pastoral acid in "Man Vs Machine". Amid cinematic scores and library music you'll find heavy piano chords in the album's hit "Yonaguni" alongside dedications to the late Duncan Lamont ("Lament For Lamont") and 20th century French painters (Henry Valensi) in the cover art. Magnifique!
Review: Idris Ackamoor and The Pyramids unveil their new album Shaman! with a tribute to jazz pianist Cecil Taylor! Originally formed in the '70s as part of Cecil Taylor's Black Music Ensemble, the group has disbanded and reformed over the last decades, with 2020's Shaman! incarnating a fresh Pyramids ensemble; find Ackamoor on sax, original member Dr. Margaux Simmons on flute, Bobby Cobb on guitar, Sandra Poindexter on violin, Ruben Ramos on bass, Gioele Pagliaccia on drums, and Jack Yglesias on percussion! A most accomplished long player, Shaman! completes a triptych of albums for Strut that dates back to 2016's We All Be Africans, with Idris Ackamoor and The Pyramids transitioning from the political and social commentaries of 2018's acclaimed 'An Angel Fell' into more introspective themes. With some striking artwork from Japanese artist Tokio Aoyama, Shaman! has been described by the group itself as personal statement on love and loss, mortality, the afterlife, family and salvation - our tips include anything over 10 minutes.
Review: Way back in 2010, Tom Jenkinson decided he'd had enough of working on his own as Squarepusher, and formed a band. The result was the Shobaleader One, an outfit seemingly inspired - in part, at least - by mask-wearing dance-pop robots Daft Punk. The album that followed, d'Demonstrator, took some of Jenkinson's influences - electro, IDM, jazz - and fused them with art-rock, synth-pop, jazz-funk and a dash of '70s psychedelia. On this belated follow-up, Jenkinson has decided to flip the script, eschewing new compositions in favour of recording 11 covers of vintage Squarepusher material. Given his involvement in both projects it's no surprise that these full-band interpretations work well. It's a smart move financially, too, as the band will be touring Europe later in the spring.
Review: Generally accepted as the father of Ethio jazz, Mulatu Astatke releases his first studio album in over twenty years through Strut. Mulatu Steps Ahead signals somewhat of a new approach for the veteran who also engages with western jazz in favour of his more familiar, native style that has made him such a pioneering artist during the 60s and 70s. Having been making jazz music for the last 50 years, Mulatu Astatke has worked with some of the greats of the jazz world. On this album, he recorded with members of the Either/Orchestra in Boston, with members of The Heliocentrics and some of the UK's leading jazz and African players whilst also adding contributions by traditional Ethiopian musicians in Addis. The album follows on from the success of both the acclaimed Inspiration Information collaboration and recent Strut compilation, New York "Addis " London.
Mulatu Steps does not focus on his past roots however, indeed much of it was recorded in the States. The result is a more traditional sounding jazz record than we are used to from him. But that is not to say there is less intrigue and personality woven into it though. In fact, each track on the album tells its very own story. Opener "Radcliffe" reflects on his time as a lecturer at Harvard University.
"Assosa" adapts traditional music from the Assosa tribes of North-Western Ethiopia, "Mulatu's Mood" re-works a Mulatu jazz fusion composition from the early 1990s into a new swinging Afro high life arrangement and "Derashe" deals with the traditional diminishing scales of the Derashe people of Southern Ethiopia. Although different from his previous work, Mulatu Astatke continues to keep jazz fresh, contemporary and up to date whether it's African or American. Let's just hope it's not another twenty years until his next studio album.
Review: Only the greatest labels do we have to thank for releasing the music of Tribe, a four piece outta Detroit made up of Doug Hammond, Marcus Belgrave, Phil Ranelin and Wendell Harrison. Their music over the years has found its way to Carl Craig's Planet E, Soul Jazz's Universal Sound label, and now, no one more fitting in compilation curation other than Strut. The UK label have, from a 15 year period, lifted 10 tracks from the acclaimed independent jazz collective and the original session recordings a full remaster (courtesy of Technology Works). With three numbers clocking in at over 10 minutes of live free jazz, it's "Freddie's Groove" that'll have you going back for more. Hometown heroes back to the big smoke.
The End Of The Butterfly King (Poem: Things Comin' Along) - (6:11) 118 BPM
Black Unity - (16:01) 157 BPM
Review: A reissue of a deep spiritual jazz masterpiece, Strut Records brings back into the frame a timeless relic from the not-so distant past. JuJu, a six piece space age, soul-jazz and freeform fusion group outta 1970s San Francisco was spearheaded by the longstanding leadership of Plunky J. Branch and the ensemble's deep African spirit. Chapter Two: Nia, originally released in '74, sees Strut descend on what aficionados would consider the band's most definitive album (alongside A Message From Mozambique) with New Yorkian minimalism colliding with ragtime in "The End Of The Butterfly King (Poem: Things Comin' Along)". Filled with powerful poetry and spoken word in the title track (and aforementioned) to explosive, wandering numbers like "Black Unity", timeless music never sounded so fresh.