Review: Joe Armon-Jones has been a driving force in the resurgence of contemporary jazz and now makes something of a victory lap with this new album on the always essential Brownswood. It's a very modern mix of bass and dub, du jour club culture and his own jazz styles featuring peers like Moses Boyd and Nubya Garcia. Frankly, the whole record is silky, starry-eyed and sublime and the excellent artwork also hist at the cosmic subtleties of this album, but our picks of the bunch are the neo-soul, summery stroll through the park vibes of "Yellow Dandelion", "Gnawa Sweet" which glows with mellifluous Rhodes chords and the uncompromising yet accessible sax and big brass action of album highlight "You Didn't Care".
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 19 tracks (both albums have been compiled on to a single disc for this edition) 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 - the brilliant "Soul Power" in particular - 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: In 2017, Jaimie Branch emerged from Chicago's spiritual and experimental jazz underground with a debut album of rare inventiveness. Two years on, the avant-garde, improvisational trumpeter is finally ready to offer up a sequel, "Fly Or Die II: Bird Dogs Of Paradise". It sees Branch wrap distinctive trumpet refrains - some played in a traditional manner, others mutilated by effects units - around a myriad of off-kilter and improvised backing tracks. While much of the instrumentation is from the jazz playbook, a number of tracks make great use of xylophone, mbira and other exotic but melodic percussion instruments. The album's standout moment, "Prayer For Amerikkka (Part 1 & 2)" sees her go even further, with vocalists and beat poets narrating a politically charged, future spiritual jazz anthem.