Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings - Soul Time (2011)

Few acts have created their own universe as successfully as Brooklyn-based Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. Forming in 1996, the band’s quest to create bona-fide funk-soul has long outlived their original critics’ view that the 10-piece band was merely some form of extended pastiche. Using only original instruments from the 60s and 70s and recording in glorious analogue, they eschew any post-modern references and create full-on, joyous grooves which achieve their aim of sounding like they were dug up in some dusty old vinyl shop.
Having cemented their reputation in the UK as being Mark Ronson’s house band and featuring strongly on Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black album, their albums have never quite captured their full force as a live act. Soul Time!, a compilation of singles, B sides and live favourites of the past decade comes pretty close though, and serves as a perfect introduction to the band. Showcasing bandleader Bosco Mann’s soulful writing, Soul Time! scores with its note-perfect emotion and keening brass arrangements. [...]
[...] There is nothing modern about Soul Time!, yet it sounds both refreshing and contemporary. The exceptional musicianship and impeccable vocals may not be to everyone’s taste, but for 40 very happy minutes, you can revel in SJDK’s very discrete world.

By Daryl Easley (BBC Music)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Laika Fatien - Nebula (2011)

“Born in Paris of an Ivory Coast father and a Moroccan-Spanish mother, Laïka was raised mainly by women (her grandmother, mother, and aunt) in a Moroccan Jewish family. She leans towards her maternal Sephardic culture, open to different styles of music in the Mediterranean.” (MySpace) And as Malcom McLaren has sung: “Jazz is Paris, and Paris is jazz”, not quite surprisingly, Laïka got her inspiration from artists as Billie Holiday, Carmen McRae, Shirley Horn, Nina Simone and Abbey Lincoln. She collaborated with Sixun, Julien Lourau, Steve Williams, Antoine Roney, Michael Bowie, David El Malek, Richard Galliano, Toot Thielemans, Robert Glasper, Gregory Hutchinson, Peter Martin, Daryl Hall, Vince Benedetti and Claude Bolling’s big band. Laïka has also taken to the stage of theaters in a different guise, quite seriously and played in Claude Lelouch’s film “Hasards ou Coïncidences”. Leader of her quintet, Laïka bring back to us some of the shining and the perfume of the classic jazz, this “Nebula” taste like a good old record from the 40s.
11 tracks, nice pieces from a time that seems has dawn long-long time ago. It’s like a 20 years old whiskey in a quiet bar wrapped in discrete smoke on a Wednesday evening.

The Soul Rebels Brass Band - Unlock Your Mind (2011)

Described by Village Voice as the "missing link between Public Enemy and Louis Armstrong," The Soul Rebels Brass Band, as you would imagine, encapsulate a hip hop sensibility while paying full respect to the brass band tradition from which they come. Led by Lumar LeBlanc and Derrick Moss, the New Orleans-based eight-piece produce funky, horn-driven music that immediately invites the listener to party.
Formed in the mid-2000s, the patronage of southern funk legends The Meters did them no harm at all, and as a result, their support slots became more prestigious; now, Unlock Your Mind is their first, full-length studio album. Many will know them from the season finale of TV series Treme. The question after all of this is simple: how can such a joyous live act transfer onto disc?
The answer: fairly effortlessly. They clearly evoke their most obvious reference point, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, but there are also elements of David Shire’s claustrophobic brass-heavy score from the cult 1974 film The Taking of Pelham 123. 
[...] At times, it veers into school orchestra territory at the moment when they first learned how to play the theme from Rocky; but this is a minor quibble. Overall, this is a full-on, joyous, positive album that makes you feel like celebrating – indeed, you may be hard pressed to hear a more vibrant, life-affirming record this year.

By Darryl Easley (BBC Music)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Indigo Jam Unit - Independent (2011)

One of the most prolific bands on the Japanese scene, indigo jam unit's seventh original album and tenth overall release since 2006 is about to hit the shops just three months after the well-received covers project recorded with vocalist Alicia Saldenha. As with all their releases, the artwork for Independent is a distinctively simple match of sans serif typography and bold colour. And once again fans can look forward to a nine track set of tunes that feature funky basslines, memorable piano melodies and explosive percussion.
The album opens with Escape, featuring a heavy bass loop that continues for the duration of the tune. Takehiro Shimizu then comes in with some jazzy cymbals and drumwork before some crashing piano chords signal the beginning of the drama. The combination of these sounds suggest a frantic and furious flight from something rather ominous. No matter how fast they run away the danger seems to be drawer closer and closer and the abrupt end to the track leaves you wondering whether they fled successfully or were captured by their pursuers.
Whatever the outcome, the band were fortunately able to complete the rest of the album and move on next to Rising. Led by a memorable and haunting piano riff, the track is also notable for its use of the band's signature twin drum sound.
Another heavy bass loop marks the start of Baobab, a fine tune with some great drums and percussions over which Yoshichika Tarue can weave his magic. The tempo changes slightly half-way through, with the percussion and drums taking on a more African and then gradually builds to a powerful finale. Resolution, on the other hand, is a down-tempo number led by an exquisitley melancholy introspective piano loop. As the title, Bounce is a funky uptempo feelgood number that is bound to get you tapping your feet after the more reflective mood of the previous tune, and this track is bound to go down well live.
Devotion is a standout tune with a shuffling drumbeat over which is layered a Latin-flavoured piano hook. It's an exotic and uplifting mid-tempo number that provides the perfect escape from cold winter evenings. 
The final third of the album kicks off with Phoenix, an atmospheric track led by some really impressive piano. The subdued and sobre mood of the first half of the tune gives way to a radiant burst of energy later on signalling the rebirth and resurrection, with the track finishing with a great feeling of hope and optimism. From high drama we then move to more conventional jazz stylings with Sepia, a great swinging tune with an awesome drum solo for its climax, which is followed by the ballad Genuine.
Once again indigo jam unit deliver the goods with Independent. It's an album that sees them sticking to a formula that has served them well for the last few years, but all the time they can continue to produce impressive new tunes like these, there is little need to fix what ain't broke.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Renegades of Jazz - Hip To The Jive (2011)

Wass Records are very proud to present Renegades Of Jazz with their debut-album “Hip To the Jive”. This album is brimming with dance floor shakers, raw break beat and a touch of Big Band Jazz.
David Hanke is the German brainchild of Renegades Of Jazz and has been making big waves since his first 12”single Karabine was released on Wass Records in 2010 creating a big impact amongst avid vinyl collectors and music fans alike.
Hip To The Jive album is a journey through heavy Big Band Jazz swing, an onslaught of massive break beats, exotic samples, wild and wonderful bass tones, B-Boy breaks and beautiful downbeat rhythms. Twelve raw tracks packed tight with energy and heavy production skills.
Played by the likes of Craig Charles (BB6 Music) and Pete Isaac (Jelly Jazz) the Renegades Of Jazz sound has found a lot love and support worldwide. Through the huge success, Renegades Of Jazz is already taking shape to become a nine-piece live band set to take to the stage in 2012.

Hip To the Jive is released on limited vinyl (500 copies only) and digital download on Wass Records.

Hip To The Jive by Renegades Of Jazz

Gretchen Parlato - The Lost and Found (2011)

The first vocalist to study at the Thelonious Monk Jazz Institute and winner of the Thelonious Monk Vocal Jazz Competition in 2004, Gretchen Parlato has cut a different path than singers who stick to time-tested standards and familiar jazz works. Her third CD is a wide-ranging affair, featuring singer/songwriter pop ballads, post-bop, her own originals, and works by her supporting musicians adding her lyrics. Her core band consists of keyboardist Taylor Eigsti, bassist Derrick Hodge, and drummer Kendrick Scott, with tenor saxophonist Dayna Stephens added on several tracks. Parlato's approach to Wayne Shorter's "Juju" has a mysterious air, with her hypnotic vocals buoyed by Stephens' effusive tenor. Parlato's interpretations of pieces by several rising stars from her generation are impressive, including the whispering treatment of Ambrose Akinmusire's "Henya," along with pieces by Eigsti and Stephens. She demonstrates her versatility in her breezy interpretation of the samba "Alô, Alô," mastering its Portuguese lyric and providing the sole accompaniment as percussionist. Parlato penned both the music and lyric to the driving post-bop vehicle "Winter Wind," while her "Better Than" is a dreamy pop ballad. It's clear that Gretchen Parlato doesn't want to be restricted by stylistic boundaries, so jazz fans with open ears will find a lot of treasures to discover within The Lost and Found.

- By Ken Dryden (AMG)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Nujabes - Spiritual State (2011)

Jun Seba (瀬場潤 Seba Jun?, February 7, 1974 – February 26, 2010) was a Japanese hip hop producer and DJ who recorded under the name Nujabes (ヌジャベス Nujabesu?), the reverse spelling of his name in Japanese order. Nujabes was also owner of the Shibuya record stores, T Records and Guinness Records and founder of the independent label Hydeout Productions.

In addition to Japanese artists like Uyama Hiroto, Shing02 and Minmi, Nujabes collaborated with Nitish underground American hip hop acts CYNE, Cise Starr (as a solo apart from the hiphop collective CYNE), Apani B, Five Deez, Substantial, CL Smooth, Terry Callier, as well as British rapper Funky DL. He was also a member of the production duo Urbanforest, an experimental collaboration with Nao T. His track "Feather" drew attention from underground hip hop listeners.

Nujabes was one of the most prolific contributors to the background music and soundtracks of Samurai Champloo, an anime which blends a feudal Japan setting with modern anachronisms, especially in regard to hip hop culture.

A distinguishing feature of Nujabes' sound is his incorporation of Jazz samples in his tunes. For an example, the track "The Final View" on his album Metaphorical Music features the Jazz Standard "Love Theme From Spartacus" by Pianist Barry Harris, as played by Saxophonist Yusef Lateef, sampled over the track. Nujabes incorporates Lateef's head melody on oboe, cuts of his solos, and background piano comping in his piece.

On February 26, 2010, Jun Seba was involved in a traffic accident upon exiting the Shuto Expressway late at night. He died at a hospital in Shibuya Ward after failed efforts to revive him. He was 36 years old.
Spiritual Stale which was released in early December 2011, is a posthumous album of unreleased and unfinished tracks left to the caring hands of Nujabes friends and collaborators. And a beautiful closure to a truly original and understated artist it is!!!

Nujabes - Spiritual State (Album Teaser) by Daze the Interludist

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Baker Brothers - Time to Testify (2011)

The Baker Brothers are back with Time To Testify, their first studio album since their covers project, Avid Sounds. So how does this latest project shape up? Well, from the opening instrumental, Statement of Intent, you get the feeling that this album is going to be slightly edgier than both Avid Sounds and its predecessor, Transition Transmission. Their sound has developed considerably since their debut album filled with edgy, hard hitting funk instrumentals. Subsequent releases have seen the band introduce vocals, initially from guests, and more recently performing vocal duties themselves, and the sound had gradually evolved, with soul and AOR influences creeping in to their song-writing. The line up has also changed, with one of the brothers leaving the original trio and the overall line-up being expanded to five members. With its fifteen tracks including a mix of songs, instrumentals, rock, funk and soul stylings, Time To Testify is an altogether solid album, and possibly their strongest release since Baker's Dozen.

Enrico Rava Quintet - Tribe (2011)

Since his return to ECM with Easy Living in 2003, the grand master of Italian jazz has gone from strength to strength, in a series of truly exceptional recordings including Tati, The Words and The Days, The Third Man, and New York Days. Enrico Rava is currently playing at a peak of lyrical invention, and his newest Italian quintet is amongst his strongest ensembles. Gianluca Petrella, Rising Star Trombonist in the Down Beat Critics Poll of 2005, is retained from The Words and the Days line-up and he has a front-chemistry with Rava which burns in this project. Fast-moving, quick-witted exchanges abound. Enrico has always encouraged younger musicians, and pianist Giovanni Guidi (born 1985) is a real find, a player of creativity and imagination: "When I notice the gifts of a young musician, I immediately involve him in my groups. This is not motivated by altruism," Rava insists. "Giovanni Guidi is like Bollani and Petrella: he astounds me every time." Bassist Gabriele Evangelista (b. 1988), another young player of promise, works splendidly alongside widely-experienced drummer Fabrizio Sferra, whose resume includes work with Chet Baker, Paul Bley and Kenny Wheeler. Material on Tribe includes new and old tunes by Rava and a brace of collective improvisations. The album was recorded at Arte Suono Studio in Udine in October 2010, with Manfred Eicher producing.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

John Zorn - A Dreamer's Christmas (2011)

The biggest surprise of the year is John Zorns beautiful Christmas CD. Zorn has hand picked seven of his favorite Christmas songs, penned two lovely originals and they are performed here in classic Dreamers style with plenty of exciting solos, exotic colors and catchy lyricism. Filled with a joyful holiday spirit, innocence, a touch of nostalgia and a charming lyricism, this is music for all ages that will make you smile with delight from the very first notes. As a special treat, vocalist Mike Patton delivers an intimate and heartfelt rendition of Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire, making A Dreamers Christmas an instant classic, and an essential CD for any contemporary Christmas celebration.

Tzadik Records

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

John Zorn - At The Gates of Paradise (2011)

Channelling the work of Romantic visionary William Blake and ancient Gnostic writings from the Nag Hammadi archives, At the Gates of Paradise is the newest installment in Zorn’s ever growing catalog of mystical works. The music is filled with bright light and a childlike innocence, and ranges from long form compositions with constantly shifting time signatures that unfold with a compelling inner logic to mysterious ballads and hypnotic moods. Featuring an all-star quartet of Zorn true believers, 20-year veterans who perform this music with a special passion and searing intensity, the performances are filled with exciting solos and brilliant group interaction.

John Medeski (piano, organ); Kenny Wollesen (vibes); Trevor Dunn (bass); Joey Baron (drums)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Portico Quartet - S/T (2012)

Portico Quartet still sound like nothing you ever heard before. The Mercury nominated East London based outfit's unique brand of hypnotic minimalism has expanded to embrace new sonic territories. Drawing on the inspiration of electronica, ambient, classical and dance music as they take their strange, beautiful, cinematic, future music to exciting new vistas where the inspiration of Burial, Mount Kimbie and Flying Lotus rubs shoulders with the textures of Arve Henriksen and Bon Iver and echoes of Steve Reich and Max Richter. But all underpinned by a shared joy in collective music making as the band push their inimitable music into the future.

[...] With their new, richly layered sound Portico Quartet have, like so many other artists today, brought elements of the recording studio into the live environment, blurring the lines between band and producer. Emboldened by this process the new album is produced by the band themselves and brilliantly engineered by Greg Freeman at the Fish Market studios and Real World. Jack explains how they've mastered the art of creating such a detailed live sound; "Because of the way we were making it by putting on the effects live, we did half of the production while we were composing it. So we knew where all the reverbs were going because we are doing that all live as well, so we knew exactly where we wanted that to go - like distortion or whatever, all the effects - almost doing our own live 'dubs' of the acoustic tracks. So when it was in the studio we knew exactly what was going on. Then it was a case of mixing everything and making sure it fitted in, and putting it down in the best way we possibly could."

The result is an album of compelling musical journeys exploring both inner and outer spaces. Abstract, virtual, visceral, horizon-less landscapes of sound, melody and rhythm; unlike anything you've ever heard.

Mike Flynn, London, November 2011

The Echocentrics - Echoland (2011)


Download MP3: The Echocentrics “We Need A Resolution” (Timbaland Tribute)

The Echocentrics return with a new EP called Echoland. The EP is a tribute to hip-hop producer, Timbaland, featuring live instrumental reinterpretations (with one vocal tune from Tita Lima) of classic Timbo tracks.
Working on the follow up to Sunshadows, Echocentrics leader Adrian Quesada, found himself occasionally hitting walls and struggling to make creative progress. What began as a couple of “exercises” to get the creative juices flowing, dissecting the minimalistic genius of Timbaland turned into this EP.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Pink Martini & Saori Yuki - 1969 (2011)

Widely considered to be the “Barbara Streisand of Japan”, Saori Yuki released her debut album in Japan in 1969 and has gone on to make over 30 albums in her 42 year-career. Yuki discovered Pink Martini after the band covered her song “Taya Tan” for their 2007 album Hey Eugene! Most recently, Yuki sang a verse of “White Christmas” in Japanese for the band’s hit 2010 holiday album Joy To The World.

In honor of the year of her debut release, Saori Yuki partnered with Pink Martini and producer Thomas M. Lauderdale to create a loving tribute to the music released in 1969. Featuring Japanese pop hits alongside internationally recognized tunes like Jorge Ben's "Mas que nada" and "Puff the Magic Dragon", "1969" is a brilliant collaboration, with Thomas M. Lauderdale's magical arrangements, Pink Martini's stellar musicianship, and Saori Yuki's soaring vocals.

Friday, December 9, 2011

DRC Music - Kinshasa One Two (2011)

Kinshasa is a vast, sprawling and chaotic city with a glorious musical tradition. The capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo may have suffered from war and dictatorship, with the result that many live in poverty, eking out a living on the streets; but there’s also an energy and a wild optimism that is reflected in the sounds that can be heard across the city. Kinshasa was home to Franco, Africa’s greatest guitar hero, and is now famed for that rousing and remarkable disabled band, Staff Benda Bilili.
It’s only natural that the city would attract adventurous African music fan Damon Albarn, who arrived four years ago to work alongside local musicians with the Africa Express movement.
more here...

Modeselektor - Monkeytown (2011)

Twisting tempos and convention, Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary are a pair of Berliners who’ve smashed holes in the maternal linear structure of techno, added much-needed comedy into rap and electrified dancehall with the essence of a European Friday night. They’ve repeatedly rebuilt dance music in their own image, and whilst Monkeytown is their third album it’s the first recorded side by side in the same studio.
As further proof of their distillation of thriving energy, we see Radiohead’s Thom Yorke join the duo in the studio for two collaborative tracks.
Other collaborations appear: long-time ally Sascha Ring, Warp’s PVT, rap guru Busdriver, noise artist Otto Von Schirach and vocals from Antipop Consortium. It’s a dense and near-complete journey. Few dance albums can keep their soul for the duration, but with tracks featuring this many facets, ideas, genres and tempos, Modeselektor romp home. Monkeytown is the sound of two men working in harmony, perfectly in control of their machines.
more here...

Mario Biondi & The Unexpected Glimpses - Due (2011)

Mario Biondi on a hunt for new talent introduces the "talent album: a unique project from the beloved artist who gives space in his new album for other artists, most of them just emerging. "Due" is a double cd of 20 songs (13 of them unreleased until now) featuring collaborations between the catanese crooner and twenty artists of the finest new jazz and talent from Italy and the world.
Artists include Vahimiti, Denise Williams, Luca Florian, Samantha Iorio, Jeff Cascaro, Walter Ricci, Andrea Bertorelli, Sagi Rei, Fabrizio Casalino, Chiara Civello, Hana Boel etc.

One of Biondi's best ever efforts and another candidate for Album of the Year for Twisted Jazz.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

BaBa ZuLa - Gecekondu (2011)

Good news: the return of psychedelic rockers BaBa ZuLa! For their latest masterpiece they have brought on board some truly inspirational artists such as Asian Dub Foundation co-founder Dr. Das, Nu Jazz mastermind Bugge Wesseltoft and other magnificent guest musicians including Titi Robin, Alcalica, Serra Yilma and Cem Yildiz. On Gecekondu, BaBa ZuLa founder Murat Ertel (saz and other stringed instruments, vocals, oscillator, theremin) and Levent Akmann (wooden spoons, percussion, machines and toys) are accompanied by members of their touring band Cosar Kamci (percussion, darbuka) and Elene Hristova (vocals).
BaBa ZuLa are a unique and eye-opening experience - and afar remove from stereotypical notions of Turkish music.
more here...

A BaBa ZuLa Interview on their new Album "Gecekondu", Istanbul and the influence of the metropolis to their music.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dengue Fever - Cannibal Courtship (2011)

It’s now a decade since brothers Zac and Ethan Holtzman founded Dengue Fever, after meeting Cambodian karaoke singer Chhom Nimol at a nightclub in LA’s ‘Little Phnom Penh’ neighbourhood. Over the course of five albums and two EPs, their fusion of Cambodian pop, Californian surf/garage rock and more has blurred the artificial boundaries between world music and pop/trash culture with plenty of style and humour. Opting to produce themselves on this latest studio album happily hasn’t dimmed their offbeat charm; it’s a tuneful, diverse and often witty addition to their discography.
more here...