Review: These days, Mulatu Astatke is widely considered to be the "Godfather of Ethiopian jazz". Yet when he recorded the two-part "Afro-Latin Soul" album in 1966, he'd just left music college in Boston. As this fine reissue proves, Astatke was years ahead of the game. While rooted in American jazz from the period, all tracks draw heavily on Cuban jazz, in particular, as well as Ethiopian musical traditions. In truth, the latter aspect doesn't come through quite as strongly as you'd perhaps expect, though some of the album's highlights draw more heavily on the percussive polyrhythms of Africa. Regardless, this is a superb set of forward-thinking global jazz that delivers high quality entertainment from start to finish.
Review: This latest reissue from Awesome Tapes From Africa is the whole reason for founder Brian Shimkovitz starting the blog and the label that grew out of it. Some 13 years ago, Shimkovitz stumbled across a cassette copy of Obaa Sima whilst travelling Ghana and his love for Ata Kak's music lead to the foundation of the Awesome Tapes From Africa blog and the commencement of a long running effort to track down the Ghanaian musician. Some four years after ATFA became a label, Shimkovitz finally tracked down the musician, real name Yaw Atta-Owusu, and was granted permission to reissue Obaa Sima, using the second hand tape purchased in Ghana as the source. The seven tracks on this LP are a winning tinny combination of highlife, rap, pop, and more with "Daa Nyinaa" sounding like a cover version of William De Vaughn's "Be Thankful For What You've Got".
Sunaga T Experience - "It's You" (Disco Alert mix) (6:38)
Review: Capturing the essence and feels of the long-standing event he runs in his Swiss hometown of Lausanne, veteran digger and selector Attias presents a brand new compendium of sweet compositions that sum up he's at creatively and spiritually. Gems on gems on gems: highlights that we guarantee will appeal to your good tastes and dancefloor include the hypnotic vibraphone wash of Cro-Magnon's "Midnight Magic", the slept-on jittering funk of Tatham, Mensah, Lord & Ranks's "Cascade" and Material and Nona Hendrix's ludicrously funky, ultimately sleazy slinker "Over & Over". We suspect you'll be playing this record over and over, too...
Review: Commonly referred to as a "Hammond pioneer", jazz legend Brian Auger is an endlessly surprising artist. He's been revolutionising the jazz scene since the late 1970's, and it is indeed his technical skills and visionary use of the organ which stand him apart. This is loud and clear throughout the entire length of this second chapter of Anthology by the Freestyle label but, in fact, you get a bit of everything Auger-related. The schizophrenic organ playing is definitely there, but tunes like "MG Blues" or "Misty" also portray a deep musicality around all the other instruments within the arrangement, and it's his layering of grooves which is also constantly fascinating. Put it this way, if you want a jazz album that wanders a little further out into the ether, then this is what you need.
Review: The Highlife party by Brian d'Souza (aka Auntie Flo) in his hometown of Glasgow has been integral in establishing a new style of club music - merging electronic and world influences. He joins the Brownswood roster to deliver his third and most ambitious album: a natural companion piece to his Radio Highlife show on Worldwide FM (run by Brownswood boss Gilles Peterson) and the club night which he co-founded - known playing music from West Africa and Latin America. Contributions on the album come from a globetrotting cast of friends, including the inimitable Andrew Ashong, Laurie Pitt of local outfit Golden Teacher, Senegalese multi-instrumentalist Mame Ndiack and Cuban percussionist Yissy Garcia.
Review: David Axelrod's 1969 album Songs of Experience - the now legendary follow-up to 1668's similarly acclaimed Songs of Innocence - has long been regarded as something of a classic, not to mention a constant source of samples for hip-hop producers such as DJ Shadow, Pete Rock, Madlib and KRS-One. As this reissue proves, it remains a peerless release. While it was inspired by the poems of William Blake, the album's tracks brilliantly fuse elements of jazz, European classical music, jazz-funk, rock, pop and traditional British and Irish folk music. It's a stunning set of instrumental tracks, all told - a kind of imaginary soundtrack to the best film never made.
Review: Celebrating 50 years of one of the most definitive fusion records ever made, Now Again present the most fitting remaster Axelrod's critically acclaimed debut album Song Of Innocence has ever had. An immense piece of work that pays homage to William Blake and brought together nodes and notions of rock, classical, funk, psychedelic and boogaloo, this reissue comes straight from the original masters with engineering and consultation from Axelrod's production partner H B Barnum, original keyboardist Don Randi, his widow Terri and producer T-Ray. Still as complex and cosmic and sounding better than ever.
Review: Not that it's any surprise to us, but London's Far Out imprint is really smashing it at the moment, putting out some Brazilian fire left, right and centre. This week, along with an excellent reissue from Baiano & Os Novos Caetanos, we have 1975's Azambuja & Cia, another unforgettable gem from the Golden Era of South American funkin'! Although there are plenty of moments worth a dance on here, this album is a much gentler, more soulful number which often spans into the livelier end of the jazz spectrum. In fact, this is the vibe right here, with fat basslines coming meandering amid mild-mannered beats and the group's inimitable vocal swagger. It's another Brazilian gem, and one worth copping as a reissue. Magnificent stuff.
Review: Before they found fame with their 1975 debut album, Azymuth divided their time between working as backing musicians (attending recording sessions with some of Brazil's top talent) and recording experimental home demos. Recently rediscovered, these demos are finally being given a release thanks to the efforts of Far Out chief Joe Davis. There's much to admire on this first batch (a second volume is also available) of previously unheard early recordings, from the high-octane Brazilian funk insanity of "Prefacio" and Jimmy Smith-esque "Melo De Cuica", to the spacey samba/jazz-funk fusion of "Xingo (Version One)" and the relaxed, slow-burn brilliance of seven minute B-side opener "Laranjeiras".
Review: Joe Davis' Far Out Recordings has always been at the top of our list. Without this fundamental imprint, we wouldn't have discovered a lot of Brazilian funk, soul and disco material from the 70s, and the likes of Gilles Peterson have much to thank Davis for. This particular release is even more special because, unlike the plethora of reissues on Far Out, it's a brand new album from the legendary Azymuth group, leaders in jazz-fusion and disco since their first album back in '73! Sadly, the original keyboardist, Jose Roberto Bertrami, passed away in 2012 but the younger Kiko Continentino has done a fantastic job at accompanying Ivan Conti and Alex Malheiros on this new LP. Fenix is an album of energy and magnetism, leading with the jazzy, wonked-out disco of Batucada Em Marte", and continuing into the myriad of tropical flavours that span the entirety of this excellent LP. It's disco for those that don't like to dance, or jazz for those that do - warmly recommended, of course.
Review: Far Out takes a second deep dive into the previously unheard early demos of Brazilian jazz-funk greats Azymuth, offering up more unpolished gems recorded during the years as one of Brazil's most sought-after session bands. Interestingly, much of the material is closer in tone and style to their subsequent releases, though some of the rhythms, solos and basslines are arguably a little wilder and more experimental. Highlights include the fizzing opener "Duro De Roer", the sweaty and percussive brilliance of "Bateria Do Mamao", the Blaxploitation influenced spy-chase madness of "Quem Tem Medo" and the surprisingly smooth "Manha", the demo that eventually earned Azymuth a recording contract.
Review: Paris' Heavenly Sweetness label is rightly proud of this 30th volume in the Ethiopiques series. It's a cross-generational collaboration between legendary Ethiopian singer and keyboardist Girma Beyene - best known for his jazz work in the late 1960s - and contemporary Parisian band Akala Wube. Given that the latter is dedicated to creating music inspired by Ethiopian music of the '60s and '70s, it's little surprise to find that Mistakes On Purpose is a hugely enjoyable and authentic-sounding set (think funk, soul and jazz with an East African twist). To add an extra level of authenticity, Ethiopiques founder and East African music specialist Francis Falceto acted as producer.