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
James Blake - James BlakeAtlas
The buzz surrounding James Blake started in early 2010 with a simmer before it ascended into a boil. Now with the release of his self-titled debut, the twenty two year old pianist is poised to build on that momentum. Blake’s beautiful compositions are hypnotic melodic textures built over dub step rhythms and thick bass lines. That’s quite evident on the huge down-tempo hit “Limit To Your Love”, with its haunting piano melody and vibrato drum patterns. “The Wilhelm Scream” is another standout that merges blues and electronica while Blake’s falsetto captures the emotion of a lost love. The only problem is his songwriting isn’t his strength and some of the other tracks like “I Never Learnt to Share” leave you feeling like he had more to say but couldn’t quite find the words to say it. That’s not the case on “Why Don’t You Call Me”, a tune that taps into his classical roots and his love of the blues. Blake is certainly onto something by seamlessly fusing dissimilar musical styles together. In addition, his production talents and his voice manipulations make his debut a fascinating listen.
Reg Dancy, 04/11
James L'Estraunge - Eventual RealityBBE
"Eventual Reality" is the full length debut from The James L'Estraunge Orchestra. Producer Ricky Reid, one half of the Soul Renegades shifts gears by crafting an engaging collection of atmospheric gems and dreamy soundscapes. In order to tap into this creative process he escaped the busy Edinburgh scene and retreated to the peaceful Swedish highlands. The move has made an immediate impression right from the start. "Me And The Bear" is a down-tempo tune filled with gorgeous rhodes and string melodies. "We Rise" begins with a stretch of boisterous strings and horns followed by lush vocals layered over an infectious groove. An a composer Reid strikes the right balance between electronica and live instrumentation and makes a profund statement with this impressive release.
Reg Dancy, 12/17
James Pants - WelcomeStones Throw Records
Upon listening to James Pants debut, I felt as though I stepped into a time machine. When I stepped out, it was 1980 and boogie music was filling the airwaves. Indeed, “Welcome” has a bit of a retro feel to it with the heavy use of synths and percussions. Somehow, he manages to make it sound fresh and current. “Ka$h Feat. Deon Davis” is a mid-tempo electronic soulful track that has an irresistible groove. “We’re Through” is a classic 80’s boogie tune that reminds you of all the jams you loved dancing to in the clubs back in the day. This disc has more to offer however. “Good Things” is a funky hip-hop track that demands to be turned up and is woefully too short. James is really on to something here. He has managed to tap into a multitude of musical styles from boogie to punk and hip-hop and has molded them into a fun and entertaining debut. Kudos to Stones Throw for recognizing his talents.
Reg Dancy, 04/08
Jamie Lidell - JimWarp Records
‘Jim’, Jamie Lidell’s follow up to his hugely successful 2005 set ‘Multiply’ sees him journey further into soul territory. He’s ditched much of the electronics in favour of a full backing band, resulting in a real 60s inspired sound. This is particularly evident on the uplifting cuts ‘Another Day’ and ‘A Little Bit Of Feel Good’, both of which could well see some pop chart action, the Sam Cooke influenced ‘All I Wanna Do’ and ‘Green Light’ which is reminiscent of Al Green. The highlight though is ‘Figured Me Out’, a wonderful 80s electro-boogie styled outing which is destined to be huge on the underground dance floors.
Andy Allen, 06/08
Jamie Lidell - MultiplyWarp records
Warp's newest recruit used to be the main man behind Super Collider. His solo work has been highly anticipated and judging by this album it was definitely worth the wait. The first single 'When I Come Back Around' is superb and carries the vocal funk of people such as Amp Fiddler. Lidell also borders on Northern soul on the track 'Music Will Not Last', furious funk on 'New Me' and some lodown jazz piano on 'What Is It This Time'. Overall the album is very refreshing and gets better by the listen. A million miles away from the usual Warp releases this man is also well worth checking out live if you get the chance. Warp are Brilliant!
Jay Phelps - Free As The BirdsRopeadope
Vancouver native Jay Phelps began making a name for himself at home before deciding to move to London at age Seventeen. While establishing himself he proceeded to co-lead the jazz group known as Empirical to critical acclaim. With his sophomore solo release the Trumpeter is ready to expand his sound. "Free As The Birds" kicks off with ethereal intro "Of The World" showcasing his warm tone and soft vocals. "Amphitrite's Bounty" is another blissful beauty filled with warm keys. Things get a bit more adventurous midway through the disc when Phelps partners up with some of New York's premiere musicians. Phelps soloing syncs up beautifully with David Binney's alto and the wordless melodies of Emillia Martensson on "Flash". Pianist John Escreet's dazzling flurries raises the track to even greater heights. The sparkling samba tinged title track brims with joy in part due to Nilson Batata's lively percussion and Martina DeSilva's soft vocals. The entire disc is a delight and worthy of repeated listens. There's a lot to like here from Phelps and he's one to keep an eye on for sure.
Reg Dancy, 07/18
Jazz Chronicles - Living In The PastFuturistica
"Living In The Past" is the third release from Jazz Chronicles aka DJ/Producer Simon S. Simon has created an array of emotive soul jazz compositions fused with hip-hop beats and infectious grooves. There is much to savor here starting with the opener. "Drift" is an ethereal tune filled with warm harmonic rhythms courtesy of Jon Lloyd on Bass Clarinet and Flutist Rachel Grennell. "Lately" is a sweet down-tempo tune layered warm chords and features the sublime vocals of Nicola Kramer. Potent rhymes from rapper Jack Jones grace the bumpin track "Serious". A blissful collection that emanates good vibrations and warms the spirit from start to finish. Simply stated another superb release from his Futuristica label
Reg Dancy, 11/16
Jazz Invaders - Find The LoveSocial Beats
"Find The Love" is the latest release from the six member ensemble from the Netherlands from as The Jazz Invaders. Their ten track disc is smoothed out soul jazz layered with warm harmonies and solid horn arrangements layered over Disco rhythms. "Disco Fever" is a soft mid-tempo boogie tune sprinkled with Linda Bloemhard's sweetened vocals. The title track starts out with a bit of funky fusion flavor before seguing into mellow soul. "Much Rosie", the only instrumental showcases sweet horn soloing and organ rhythms. Overall this is a pleasant journey to the land of eighties flavored Disco grooves, no doubt you'll enjoy the ride.
Reg Dancy, 06/16
Jazz Liberatorz - Clin d'oeilKif
As I think about some of the latest hip hop releases of the past year, I reflect on the golden age of the genre. That was when we were consistently treated to now classics from The Native Tongues, Brand Nubian and The Pharcyde. One element that was prevalent within the music of those artists was the inclusion of jazz samples or collaborations with jazz artists. Those samples were from some of our most respected jazz musicians and gave the listener greater appreciation of jazz music. The artists, I'm sure gained a greater appreciation. Well, thanks to the Jazz Liberatorz and some of the most respected MC’s in the game today, that feeling comes to life with their remarkable debut “Clin d’oeil”. The theme throughout this disc is the love and respect for 70’s Jazz expressed by the Jazz Liberatorz and the MC’s on board. On the track, “Ease My Mind", I don’t know what sounded better, the smooth chords and accompanying flute or hearing Fat Lip and Tre Hardson together again. “Indonesia” finds Tableek of Maspyke flowing over some cosmic jazz funk reminiscent of Lonnie Liston Smith. On “U Do”, Stacey Epps sings over a smoothed out rhythm guitar enhanced so that has a summertime vibe to it. What is also equally enjoyable is the interludes that feature each MC or vocalist expressing their love for jazz while a jam session serves as the backdrop. The Jazz Liberatorz succeed by capturing the essence of one of hip hop’s prime moments in its history. I can’t get enough of this cd. I have no doubts that you’ll feel the same way.
Reg Dancy, 06/08