Established in 1999 by Quinton Scott in London, Strut Records is dedicated to unearthing the lost gems of dance music’s past. Strut spans the musical spectrum of hard funk, underground disco, original breaks, Nigerian afrobeat, old skool hip hop and forgotten classics. The label has been home to vintage dancefloor anthems including a remastered version of Patrice Rushen’s ‘Forget Me Nots’, Henrik Schwarz’s version of Pat Thomas and Ebo Taylor’s ‘Ene Nyame Nam 'A' Mensuro’ and Detroit Swindle’s remix of Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band’s ‘Yamona’. In 2008 Strut was acquired by the !K7 Label Group. Afro Strut is Strut Records’ sub-label that focuses on afrobeat and afro-funk releases.
Review: Strut's series of Oneness Of Juju reissues continues apace. Last week they re-released the veteran US Afro/Latin/soul/jazz fusionists' 1980 'Make A Change' long-player; this week they delve back a little further in time to bring you 'Space Jungle Luv', an album that first came out on the Black Luv label in 1976, and that Strut themselves reissued in 2002. As with last week's outing, there's an almost bewildering array of styles on show - and it'll all be a bit "Welcome to Jazz Club!" for some - but if you want to hear the band at their best, check out the dark psychedelic funk of the title track and, in particular, 'The Connection'.
Review: Keeping with their run of reissuing lost or overlooked classics from legendary DC label Black Fire, Strut presents the first full international release of Southern Energy; the only album ever recorded by the R&B, jazz, funk and soul collective, Southern Energy Ensemble. Recorded in 1977 and featuring the likes of trumpeter Marvin Daniels, disco drummer and percussionist William Johnson - to a host of other names worth looking up like Nat Lee, Adolphus Maples and vocalist Judith Spears - Southern Energy Ensemble presents a funky, freeform and a peak time lounge expression of jazz funk energy. Check out "Open Your Mind", "See Funk" and album highlight "Third House".
Review: Plunky J Branch and his band Oneness Of Juju have been plying their unique blend of jazz, funk and soul with Afro and Cuban rhythms since time, starting out in San Francisco in 1970 but based since the mid-70s in Plunky's hometown of Richmond, Virginia. Here, Strut reissue their 1980 album 'Make A Change' (also later released as 'Every Way But Loose'), now adding extended versions of five of the original album's six tracks, as well as bonus cuts 'Time' and 'Plastic'. Spanning reggae, jazz-funk, soul and more, there's much to enjoy here - the raw funk of the aforesaid 'Every Way But Loose' in particular.
There Are Other Worlds (They Have Not Told You Of) (remastered) - (11:01) 146 BPM
Lanquidity (Alternate mix) - (8:20) 73 BPM
Where Pathways Meet (Alternate mix) - (6:31) 92 BPM
That's How I Feel (Alternate mix) - (12:10) 95 BPM
Twin Stars Of Thence (Alternate mix) - (9:51) 85 BPM
There Are Other Worlds (They Have Not Told You Of) (Alternate mix) - (10:55) 159 BPM
Review: It's quite the statement to have the words 'definitive edition' next to the music of Sun Ra however if it's Strut on the case you can imagine this going the whole nine yards. This re-release dates the avant-garde jazz classic back to 1978 when Sun Ra and his Arkestra appeared on Saturday Night Live for the first time. Directly after the show the band recorded Lanquidity in a single session. Delivering 10 alternate, largely unheard versions of Lanquidity, the album's longer sessions come via the free jazz grooves of "That's How I Feel" to the strung out and rather bizarre "There Are Other Worlds (They Have Not Told You Of)". Definitively alternative versions no less than bona fide.
Review: Introducing Electric Jalaba, the coming together of Moroccan Gnawa master Simo Lagnawi, Italian-English drummer Dave De Rose, and four musical brothers; Henry, Oliver, Nathaniel and Barnaby Keen. As the band explains, they bring with them a traditional folk sound that weaves itself through elements of percussion and earthly funk grooves with the added boost of analogue effects and warped guitars. With these nine-tracks crafted in their south London studio, El Hal/The Feeling brings with it remnants of West African dialects - Bambara from Mali, Fulani and Hausa from the Sahel region - to Senegalese mbalax inspirations and dubby odes to Allah. Our picks, "Shabakru", "Diamla" and the dancefloor heavy "Cubaili Ba".
Review: Strut continue their excavation into the archives of the legendary Black Fire label with another exclusive reissue, this time from legendary free jazz reed instrument specialist Hamiet Bluiett. Master in all things saxophone, clarinet and composition, Bearer Of The Holy Flame first hit the shelves in '94 following its original recording back in '83. Indebted to smokey, ragtime and free jazz inspirations, Bluiett hits on all matter of dynamics, range and playfulness in the live renditions of "Headless Blues" and minimal love ballad I'll "Close My Eyes" to more percussive numbers like "Footprints" and "Song Song". The sounds of jive start to finish.
Review: Twelve-piece jazz, funk and soul ensemble outta Leeds in the UK swiftly follow up their Jungle Run LP - released on Strut in 2019 - with their brand new album Freedom Fables. Taking in guest contributions from the likes of Cherise, Ego Ella May, Soweto Kinch, Pat Thomas and more, each vocalist on this record is said to explore their own memoir in a move that Nubiyan Twist says reflects on the power of narrative. With some beautiful artwork evoking images of exploration, allow Freedom Fables to take you on a trip through an exotic highlife of broken beat, blunted hip hop, Latin jazz, afro soul and UK love.
Review: Strut's onward reignition of Black Fire's lesser known and truly respected back catalogue continues with the re-up of avant-garde brass and woodwind experimentalist, Byard Lancaster. Picking out one of Lancaster's lesser known classics, 'My Pure Joy', was recorded in 1992 taken from a discography that dates back to the 1960s. Throughout his career Lancaster was a community campaigner for street musicians and pushed what's been called the 'the Philly jazz sound, Germantown style.' Get your free jazz and minimal piano, then, from tracks like "Sweet Evil" to other solo sessions in "Sax-o-phonics Science", "Afro Space" and "Lancaster Brand Notes". For touches of percussion check out "Drummers From Ibadan" and "Philadelphia Savage", with full ensembles to be heard in "Jazz Lady", "My Pure Joy" and "Newest African Cities". Pure heat.
Review: Until now it was perhaps only the more discerning collectors that were up with the legacy that jazz funk and go-go group Experience Unlimited may well have left us with Free Yourself. Exploding out of 1970s Washington DC, Free Yourself presents the band - which went on to release with majors like Virgin - with its debut album on the legendary Blak Fire label that Strut have been invigorating over the last 12 months or so. From the psychedelic funk trip of album closer "Funky Consciousness" to the straight up funk and go-go of its dynamic opener, "It's All Imagination", relive a classic album from a band considered pioneers of the 'go-go' sub-genre of dance and funk music from the times.
Minus Me (feat Ambolley - original Ghana mix) - (4:14) 90 BPM
Review: Led by frontman Stevo Atambire, Alostmen are at the forefront of kologo music, a genre based around the Frafra traditions of the kologo, a stringed lute instrument. The group also features Jo Ajusiwine on goje fiddle/vocals, Aminu Amadu on talking drum, and Sowah on gome box/djembe/conga, with production by Wanlov The Kubolor and Percy Yip Tong. It follows Strut's release of Sun Ra Arkestra's first studio album in 20 years, Swirling, from last October, and brings with it future kologo klassics like "Killer Fear Die", "Teach Me" and "Do Good". Take your pick!
Review: Receiving a second reissue following its original release some 30 years ago, spiritual jazz ensemble Southern Freedom Arkestra returns again spearheaded by vibraphonist Lon Moshe outta Chicago and San Fran. Opening with "Prayer For Saude" that calls for Black self-actualization and revived connection to ancestral ways bookends this album with the 14-minute long freeform-jam, "Love Is Where The Spirit Lies". In between you'll find the dreamy atmospheres and chimes of "Ballad For Bobby Hutcherson" next to its skittery free jazz counterpart, "Low Ghost", and much more. A fresh, cultivated and reborn session of vibraphone, piano and brass-laced nu-jazz. Feel the bliss.
Review: The venerable Sun Ra Arkestra, under the direction of free-jazz maestro Marshall Allen, release their first studio album in over twenty years, Swirling. Recorded at Rittenhouse Soundworks in Philadelphia, Allen himself describes the record as the Arkestra's "love offering" to the world, with tracks like "Space Loneliness" and "Seductive Fantasy" swooning in sultry blues like the cigarette smoke in a dimly lit cocktail bar. Others like "Astro Black" focus on acousmatic dynamics, solo voice and contemporary bass pulsations, to more definitive free jazz numbers in atmospheric form like "Angels & Demons At Play" to full on ragtime sessions in "Infinity/I'll Wait For You". Find playful big band numbers or covers in "Queer Notions" and "Unmask The Batman" that add to this full-blooded celebration of Sun Ra's legacy.
Review: With two independently released albums to their name, Electric Jalaba out of the UK are introduced into the contemporary discography of Strut with a fresh new single, Cubaili Ba! Combining heavy duty electro synths and skittering jazz drums with sub-Saharan gnawa rhythms and Simo Lagnawi's lead vocal, "Cubaili Ba" signals a first transmission since 2015 that's backed by a dusty, percussive and instrumental Max Graeff remix that's stripped-back and dubbed out Berlin-style. Additionally, band members (and brothers) Henry & Oliver Keen turn in a slightly deeper and atmospheric version as Soundspecies. Max Graeff FTW.
Review: Founded out of Washington DC in the 1970s and running through until the early-'90s, Black Fire was a go-to label for all things spiritual in jazz, funk and soul; grounded in African rhythms, dialogue, funk and go-go. Inspiring a generation alongside like Strata-East and Tribe, Black Fire Records is responsible for delivering us the highest order of Oneness Of Juju material, while working with and introducing the likes of saxophonist Byard Lancaster, Ghanaian percussionist Okyerema Asante, Southern Energy Ensemble, and music drama troupe Theatre West. Also included in Strut's retrospective is the Experience Unlimited's soul and gospel number "People", the frenetic, hot summer jazz of Lon Moshe & Southern Freedom Arkestra and some alternative disco rhythms of "Look At The People!" by Wayne Davis. Our Pick: "African Rhythms (live In Washington DC, 1975)".
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.
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.
Review: Formed in 1970 and fronted by J Plunky Branch, Oneness Of Juju have gone through numerous personnel and name changes over the decades but are still peddling their Afrocentric take on funk and jazz to this day (currently as Plunky & The Oneness). This collection from Strut, though, focuses on their golden years in the 70s - and it's heavy stuff! While one or two tracks would fit nicely into straight-up funk sets, adding a little world flava, others explore model jazz, spoken word, Nyabhingi drumming and other more esoteric musical pastures. Imagine yourself surrounded by righteous dashiki-wearing dudes at a Panthers meeting in 70s Harlem and you'll get the general vibe...
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 are releasing a new album entitled 'Shaman!' via Strut. Ackamoor and The Pyramids formed during the early 1970s as part of Cecil Taylor's Black Music Ensemble, releasing three albums before they disbanded. The album unfolds over four acts with personal musical statements about love and loss, mortality, the afterlife, family and salvation. "When Will I See You Again" is the first single taken from the album and it is one seriously soulful and funky groove that is a great taste of what's to come.