Review: Manchester's Gondwana Records, run by Matthew Halsall, has been a constant source of good vibes and inspiration. Leaning on a jazz note, most of the material is centred away from the dance floor and yet there is always plenty of movement and joyous rhythm, particularly from Halsall's appearances. Here, we have a reissue of 2015's "Journey In Satchidananda", a majestic wave of jazz flutes, seductive piano keys, in what is an altogether dreamy sort of setting, which is further evolved on the supremely euphoric waves of the unbeatable "Blue Nile". At last, some contemporary jazz on 12" that has left us blown away..!
Review: Legendary bandleader Eddie Palmieri took a rare groove excursion from his Latin legacy in the early 70s for two albums as Harlem River Drive. Criminally overlooked, Soul Brother have dusted off two of the many highlights from his self-titled debut; "Idle Hands" is a sleazy, Gaye-style message with an almost spoken word quality to the vocals and a smoky wooziness to the horns while "Seeds Of Life" is a real end-of-set belter that rises and rises with tight orchestration between the guitar, horns and drums. Incredible... This can't be slept on this time round.
Review: Ernie Hawks & The Soul Investigators return to Timmion with a pair of brand-new soul scorchers, and this ain't no reissue business. For real. As per usual, the imprint know exactly where to source the very best in the contemporary gear while everyone else is looking to the 70s for that adrenaline rush. As it turns out, this is some marvellously constructed soul music, right from the heart and soul, with "Cold Turkey Last Time" and "Trackin' Down" containing all the elements of fine ballads that are both future-proof and utterly stand-out. Check it and don't wreck it.
Review: Best known amongst house heads for being the source of the lilting orchestral sample in Pepe Bradock's "Deep Burnt", Freddie Hubbard's 1979 version of "Little Sunflower" is a soul-jazz classic and a half. Since the full version of Hubbard's vocal re-make (the trumpeter first recorded an instrumental take in 1968) only ever appeared on a hard-to-find promo 12", this Record Store Day reissue should be an essential purchase. It remains a gentle, breezy and sunset-ready jazz-dance gem, with Hubbard's emotion-rich vocals and mazy trumpet solos riding Latin-tinged percussion, elastic double bass and some suitably jammed-out jazz pianos. In other words, it's the kind of life-affirming treat that's capable of spreading sunshine on even the cloudiest day.
Review: Matthew Halsall is without doubt one of the brightest young talents in the British jazz scene. Since 2008, the man has been adding a fresh and playful tone to a very grounded musical genre, and at the same time carrying through the dynasty of jazz legends such as John Coltrane or Pharaoh Sanders. On The Go is his album from 2011, repressed this week by Gondwana Records, who have been very impressive since their first releases back in the mid 2000's, and the LP is one for the tasteful connoisseur. The mood is meditative and the air is smoky, where Halsall's trumpet travels gracefully across a space made up of striking piano solos, broken waves of drums, and an altogether peaceful sort of outlook.
Review: Following 2014's When The World Was One, Halsall and the Gondwana collective continue their spiritual jazz adventure with another immaculate narrative. Now with much more vocal prowess, singer Josephine Oniyama plays a lead role in the story, adding consistency and personality to the Halsall's swooning, cinematic odysseys. Highlights include the Hathaway-style half spoken/half sung "Badder Weather", the frenetic double bass and brushed drum crescendos of "The Land Of", the (lark) ascending strings and oriental scales of "Cushendun" and the smoky, faraway Coltraneisms of the title track. Modern jazz doesn't get any more authentic than this.
Review: 2018 has been a vintage year for those inspired by old Japanese ambient and new age jazz-fusion, with a plethora of reissues of obsure, sought-after albums from the '70s and '80s. Here's another. It comes from fast-fingered jazz bassist Motohiko Hamase, whose 1986 album "Reminiscence" has long been considered something of a slept-on gem. It's marked out by the prominence of Hamase's high register bass guitar lead lines and solos, around which are woven breezy Marimba melodies, new age synthesizer sounds, chiming metallic percussion and evocative classical orchestration. It's a magical blend of atmospheric and emotion-rich sounds, with "Childhood", "Tree", "Na Mo Che" and "Water Meadow" standing out.
Review: Japan's Motohiki Hamase, one of the nation's most revered jazz bassists, has primarily released music with the Isao Suzuki Quartet, but the output under his own name has always intrigued us - especially given that he's now out through Mule Musiq, and that this is his first solo outing since 1993! Intaglio strays way beyond the natural confinements of jazz, taking the gnere's heart and soul into an electronic voyage that seems to be totally undefinable. 'Organic ambient' seems to be the clearest way to describe these atmospheric experiments, a collection of rhythmic collages powered by Hamase's understanding of timing, acoustic balance, and the power that traditional jazz instruments can impose when processed in an innovative style. This is all about detail and aesthetic, so it comes recommended to fans of Cafe Oto's output, to cite one example. Warmly recommended.
Review: Classic jazz funk album from the legendary Johnny 'Hammond' Smith with a special version with six previously unissued bonus out-takes. Released in 1975 and his 32nd long player, it heralded a fresh chapter in his career that saw him exploring more electronic instrumentation and deeper shades of funk in a similar way to Roy Ayers or Bob James. The result was a timeless document that carries motifs of many of today's artists; the harmonies of "Can't We Smile?", for instance, smack of Plantlife while the punctuated piano work and mirrored squiggling synths on "Song For The Family" echoes with Flying Lotus-style whim. Also a key source of breaks for many junglists, Gears is a historic document that's not only played a strong role in electronic music but still sounds incredible today.
Review: Warren Hampshire and Greg Foat return to Athens Of The North with their fourth album "Saint Lawrence"... and they do so by way of a guided tour around nooks and crannies of the Isle Of Wight. Recorded live with no overdubs in two churches near a small village on the island named Saint Lawrence, the album is the duo in their most honest and delicate form. Naked with nothing but the acoustics to wrap around them, they team up with a selection of local musicians to create one of the most beguiling and immersive narratives where each instrument trembles gently and each track is named after one of IOW's best kept secrets. Beautiful.