J Dilla - Ruff Draft DeluxeStones Throw Records
In 2003 Dilla's "Ruff Draft" was released and I remember a lot of the hiphop heads, beat makes and shop assistants getting rather excited over the delivery of this EP. As it was only released on vinyl, it didn't seem to get the mass attention that everyone expected and of course deserved. I'm certain all the people who picked it up at the release will be informing all their friends that they bought the first pressing but of course that's common with all record collectors. Thankfully Stones Throw have given us a second chance, rather than bid for the high prices of the original on Ebay. There are a few added extras included in the "Deluxe" version and one cover version you may not expect: Slade "Come Feel The Noise" but of course in Dilla's inevitable style. His legacy continues to inspire, educate and entertain.
Simon Harrison, 03/07
J'S Bee - IsotopeFar Out
J's Bee has released several albums in Japan but "Isotope", their latest is the first to hit the UK market. This impressive release is filled with deep melodic rhythms enhanced with lush arrangements. The Japanese seven member collective strikes a nice balance in merging multiple genres without overpowering the sound. The controlled intensity is felt from the onset with the opener “Strange Supper”, where the groove simmers and the rhythms percolate, at this point the group has you woven in their web with no release point in sight . “Lights” is a warm and engaging ballad sung by vocalist Yuko Kawasaki and features beautiful solo from Yukiko Matsunaga on piano. “Farewell North Sea” merges lush arrangements with a touch of a dub step groove that is deeply satisfying. On “Chuck It All” they let loose and stir up a touch of funk. Although “Isotope” has a jazz aesthetic, it seamlessly merges soul, funk and much more with a delicate touch. This makes for a superb record that will result in repeated listens.
Reg Dancy, 04/13
J'von & Ackryte - Raw SheepCascade Records
Born in Oakland but raised in Seattle Washington, rapper J'Von teams up with Minneapolis producer Ackryte for their third project entitled "Raw Sheep". J'Von's lyrical dexterity serves him well as he effortlessly breezes through a variety of topics over Ackrute's hypnotic laid back beats. Evidence of this can be heard on "Where's Bob Villa". J'Von calls out wannabe hard core rappers on "[Violence] of the lambs". LA based tapper Blu jumps on the track "They dnt beleev"as well as "Autmn". A perfect marriage of wicked beats and tight rhymes results in a very entertaining record by the emerging duo. Definitely worth checking out.
Reg Dancy, 06/15
J*S*T*A*R*S - Put Me On A PlanetSteel Tiger Records
Fresh debut release from J*S*T*A*R*S on the Steel Tiger Records label. This 12 track album is written and produced by Steve Cobby and Sim Lister. Cobby is one half of Hull's very own Fila Brazillia and it sure shows throughout this whole long player. Hard to describe what style of music this album is, so I'm not gonna. Instead, I'll tell you that the album is for listening anywhere and the tracks could be played on most open minded dancefloors. Think Mr Scruff! If you're into Fila then this album will definitely be your taste. If you've never heard any Fila Brazillia stuff and therefore have nothing to compare then far be it from me to tell you that you should listen to some of their productions right now. Go on, do it! Now, I said.
Jack Costanzo - Mr BongoJazzman Records
Legendary percussionist Jack Costanzo, aptly named Mr Bongo was unquestionably the premiere percussionist of his era for Latin music. A career that started in the 40s, he's performed with everyone from Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra to Gilbert Castellanos. Costanzo honed his skills in Havana, Cuba and he would eventually front his own Orchestra throughout the 50s and 60s during the Mambo craze. After a semi retirement, he returned to record with Ubiquity records in 2001. Jazzman records, arguably the premiere crate diggers of obscure music have compiled a superb collections of his early recordings. "Quiera" recorded live "Maleguena" one of several recordings that feature prominent pianist Eddie Cano is a eight burner filled with sizzling percussion and piano soloing. "Caravan" brings the heat with blistering trumpet soloing to complement the fiery rhythm section. If you need an introduction to the Mambo and Mr Costanzo in particular then you certainly need this in your collection.
Reg Dancy, 04/16
Jackie Leven - Oh What A Blow That Phantom Dealt MeCooking Vinyl Records
Oh this is a cracker! Things start with the driving blues of 'Vox Humana' and some glorious banjo from Leon Hunt and with excellent production from Jackie and David Wrench. Johnny Dowd adds vocals to 'One Man One Guitar' and a great version of 'I've Been Everywhere' plus he narrates a horror story 'The Skaters' about a man killing a woman by a river. There's a couple of tracks too in homage to Judee Sill and Kevin Coyne. Superb.
Graham Radley, 04/07
Jackson Conti - SunjinhoKindred Spirits
Oh yes, now this is a project worth getting excited about! A collaboration between Hip-Hop’s most prolific producer and all-round beat junkie, Madlib (Otis Jackson, Jr.) and Ivan "Mamão" Conti, percussionist with much-loved Brazilian band, Azymuth. The music consists of new interpretations of classics by artists like Chico Buarque, Joao Donato, Baden and Vinicius, Marcos Valle, Dom Um Romao and Airto, as well as some original material from Madlib himself, and the fruits of this creative labour are, as could be expected, meandering, Jazz-heavy workouts, in a Yesterday’s New Quintet style, beefed-up with some seriously funky percussion. And, basically, that’s it! What more is there to say? If you like the idea, then you’ll like the results, and if you don’t like the idea, then…well, you know.
Tom Breslin, 05/08
Jafrosax - New Standard Of The FuturePantone Music
Here we have the debut album from Tokyo's saxophonist Kaz Katuta aka Jafrosax which is produced by Yukihiro Fukutomi and Jazztronik. First thing you should know was that Vikter Duplaix features on "In The Morning" which was released as a single in 2005, with excellent remixes from Orto aka Faze Action and Jazztronik. Also featured are quality Japanese rapper Gaggle and the wonderful Yukimi Nagano who sounds as good as ever on "Drawn 2 You" and "Wait and See". Katuta has got the right balance between old and new here, and has even dared to re-work Underground Resistance's classic 2Hi Tech Jazz". Another fine selection from Pantone.
Simon Harrison, 02/06
Jah Wobble and the Chinese Dub Orchestra - Chinese Dub30 Hertz Records
Developed from the Liverpool 08 Capital Of Culture commission and with strong input from Jah Wobble’s wife Zi Lan Liao (Guzheng) and the Pagoda Chinese Youth Orchestra plus on ‘Dragon & Phoenix’ an appearance of Wobble’s sons. They were joined by visiting Chinese dancers and vocalists (the wonderful Gu Yinji and Wang Jinqi) plus Wobble’s regular touring band. I had the pleasure of seeing them at Womad and every part of this East/West union came together brilliantly in a way which was both inspiring and magical. Highly recommended.
Graham Radley, 05/09
Jaleel Shaw - OptimismChangu Records
Philadelphia continues to crank out jazz musicians at a frenetic pace. The alumni can boast of luminaries such as McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Smith and Christian McBride just to name a few. It’s time to get familiar with Tenor saxophonist Jaleel Shaw. Jaleel’s first record, “Perspective” was a solid debut but his new release “Optimism” blows the doors off the hinges. Jaleel and his band come out swinging on “Flipside”, displaying fierce soloing and tender exchanges. “In 3” is a easy going melodic piece that showcases the wonderful playing of guitarist Lage Lund. “Muna’s Sleeping” is a beautiful ballad that reveals Jaleel’s sense of harmony. When you hear Jaleel’s tone, it’s never forced but a tone that is sings over the melody. Add to the mix a stellar band in Robert Glasper on piano, Joe Martin on bass, Jonathan Blake on drums and trumpeter Jeremy Pelt on two tracks and you have one superb record by an emerging voice on the scene today. “Optimism” is certainly one of the most impressive releases this year. Highly Recommended.
Reg Dancy, 10/08