Joe Lovano - SymphonicaBlue Note Records
Fans of straightahead jazz know that Joe Lovano is one of the most important tenor saxophonists in the business. His catalogue is far too long to list here. As impressive as he has been through the years, his latest may be one of his best. “Symphonica”, his 20th recording for Blue Note, is an orchestral masterpiece. The main reason for that is the enlistment of the WDR Radio Big Band from Cologne, Germany. With the exception of “Sound Of Love”, the other six tracks are his own compositions that he previously recorded for other projects. One of those compositions is “Eternal Joy”, an energetic track that finds Lovano playing soprano and creating melodic explorations. “Alexander the Great” is another gem that is also full of fire but is very elegant and imaginative. “I’m All For You” is a lovely ballad that is full of lush strings and romantic harmonies. Warm and cinematic, “Symphonica” is wonderful work by an underrated giant. Make sure you don’t miss out on this.
Reg Dancy, 12/08
Johnick - This Is How We DewBBE
If you happen to be one of the night clubbers who worked up a sweat in the underground clubs during the nineties there’s a strong chance you jacked your body to a Johnick track or two. If you were in New York City then the chances are even greater considering Johnny ‘D’ DeMairo and Nicky Palermo crafted countless house tracks just across the bridge in nearby Brooklyn and received numerous spins by the top DJ’s throughout NYC and around the globe. In fact alongside premier House labels like Strictly Rhythm, Johnick’s Henry Street imprint produced some of the hottest House music during this period. Now courtesy of BBE, you get to experience their deep douse grooves that remain relevant and certain to make you move throughout the night. “This Is How We Dew” is filled with classics such as “Play the World”, aided by a sample of another house banger; River Ocean’s “Love and Happiness. “The Captain” is a deep and soulful track that instantly fills any dance floor and “Smoke” is a superb edit of the Eddie Kendricks classic. This double lp is filled with funky four to the floor beats, not to mention a snapshot of two world renowned DJ/producers and their essential contributions to House music.
Reg Dancy, 09/12
Jonathan Klein/Herbie Hancock - Hear, O Israel: A Prayer Ceremony In JazzJonny Records
Record collector extraordinaire Jonny Trunk launches his new Jonny label (subsidiary to Trunk) in fine style with a reissue of this “rare as rocking horse shit” album. Originally released in 1968 as a private pressing in limited quantities it was the work of a young composer (only 17 years old at the time) Jonathan Klein who married Hebrew song and prayer with New York modern jazz. With players of the caliber of Herbie Hancock, Thad Jones, Ron Carter, Jerome Richardson and Grady Tate this makes for a glorious listening experience. From the opening intro ‘Blessing Over The Candles’ which comes on like the dawning of a bright new day, through intoxicating moments like ‘Sanctification’, the bossa flavoured ‘Kiddush’ to the concluding ‘Final Amen’ this music is truly a blessing to behold.
Andy Allen, 09/08
Jonny Drop - Beat TapeAlbert's Favourites
London based DJ Jonny Drop latest release "Beat Tape" offers a myriad of rhythms that your average beat tape doesn't. Instead of your usual electronic drum patterns supplying the beats there are snare drum rhythms reminiscent from the seventies soul period that provide the foundation. Not too surprising considering Drop is an avid drummer himself. Add some sassy jazz vocal samples and astral melodies and you have a recording that provides definite satisfaction. Highlights include "Mind field" is cosmic jazz funk with ethereal vocal samples. "Billy's Girl"features spacey keys and dreamy soundscapes. "This Is The One" is filled with haunting vocals and strings. This release is filled with superb remixing as well as a glimpse into Drop's musical archive. As far as beat tapes go, this is definitely a cut above the rest.
Reg Dancy, 05/16
JonWayne - Rap Album OneStones Throw
Long before "Rap Album One", Jon Wayne showcased his skills as a producer with the instrumental album "Bowser" as well his three "Cassette" mixtape series. So it's no surprise to find him successfully performing dual roles on his Stones Throw debut. JonWayne's dark yet introspective lyrics serves as an open book that reveals a man with a plan who has little time for playing the fake thug role. This is evident on the track like"Find Me In The Future". where he states "You won't find me doing those silly dances with the proverbial gun to my face. This ain't Kansas!". On "You Can Love Me When I'm Dead" he displays his lyrical skills and art of story telling over a chilling chopped up piano sample. Other highlights include "Black Magic" and "The Come Up". "Rap Album One" succeeds due to JonWayne's ability to wax poetic on his story as opposed to rehashing tired cliches. For hip-hop heads who can appreciate lyrical skills and tight production, he's certainly worth checking out.
Reg Dancy, 01/14
Jose James - Black MagicBrownswood Recordings
Unless you took up residence on the moon two years ago, you surely were among those who celebrated a new voice in Jazz. With “The Dreamer”, Jose James serenaded jazz and non-jazz lovers with a voice not heard since the likes of Johnny Hartman. His velvet tone coupled with outstanding compositions made “The Dreamer” a huge hit. Two years later, Jose returns with “Black Magic” and it’s clear that he’s intent on not reinventing the wheel. Instead he steps out of the box and crafts a gorgeous disc filled with a variety of compositional styles that embarks on an exploration of deep spiritual love and the joy that it brings. The disc starts out with “Code”. The flying Lotus production is a down-tempo hypnotic groover that will have your head nodding within seconds. From this point on, love and sensuality permeates throughout the disc. “Touch” is an intimate portrayal of a man expressing his deep feelings for his mate. Pianist Gideon Van Gelder, who produced and arranged the tune, lays down a beautiful melody for Jose to work his eh, magic. No pun intended. “Promise You Love” is an up-tempo beat driven gem that’s produced by DJ Mitsu The Beats and features Jordana De Lovely on accompanying vocals and Takuya Kuroda on trumpet. “The greater Good” is a soft jazzy number that features precision horn arrangements as well as Gideon on fender Rhodes while Jose courts a woman who may ultimately be the special lady he desires. Jordana appears again on the Taylor McFerrin produced “Love Conversation”, a track that oozes warmth and sensitivity exchanged between two lovers. “No Tellin” may be the only track that resembles anything close to “The Dreamer”. Produced by James, this is a haunting ballad arranged in a trio format that also features him on piano as well. Whatever you do, don’t bother comparing the two discs. Clearly “Black Magic” stands on it’s own as an exceptional record by a rising star. Without a doubt you need this in your collection.
Reg Dancy, 03/10
Jose James - No Beginning No EndBlue Note
Jose James wants this to be clear; he’s no longer a Jazz singer. Despite this being his debut for the historical Jazz label known as Blue Note, he’s broken free of the restrictions that come with the title so that he can make music without boundaries. Rest assured that after one listen to “No Beginnings No End”, you’ll applaud the direction he is heading in. James new release fuses elements of soul, hip-hop and folk brought to life by the likes of Robert Glasper, Chris Dave, bassist Pino Palladino and others. The disc kicks off with “It’s All Over Your Body”, a sultry down-tempo tune with a thick groove that oozes warmth and sensuality. “Do You Feel” is a bluesy soul burner that features a wonderful solo from Pianist Kris Bowers. James also performs duets with two talented vocalists here as well. Moroccan singer Hindi Zahra’s voice blends seamlessly with James on “Sword & Gun” and Emily King on the lovely “Heaven On The Ground”. King, who wrote the latter, also wrote the folk flavored “Come To My Door” as well. Jose James sets the mood for love and the high level of quality compositions that make up this superb disc will put you in the mood, rest assured.
Reg Dancy, 02/13
Jose James - The DreamerBrownswood Recordings
Fresh for Gilles Peterson's Brownswood label is the stunning debut long player from Jose James. Jose possesses a distinctive smoky quality to his voice which sits perfectly on this 10 track selection of largely down-tempo jazz works. 'The Dreamer' which initially appeared on 'Brownswood Bubblers Vol. 1' is present and correct along with the original mix of 'Blackeyed Susan'. Other highlights include 'Love', a slightly funkier outing with a live, almost drum 'n' bass rhythm and an inspired version of 'Nola' originally performed by Bill Lee and Ronnie Dyson on the Spike Lee movie soundtrack 'She's Gotta Have It'. Touch down anywhere on this album though and you won't be disappointed. If I had to make one slight criticism it would be that 'Equinox' and 'Resolution' from the limited edition 10" haven't made it on to the set.
Andy Allen, 12/07
Josef Leimberg - Astral ProgressionsWorld Galaxy
If we've learned anything musically within the last two years, it's that the LA music scene has exploded like no other area. Trumpeter Josef Leimberg has been right in the middle of the scene, having worked with everyone from Kamasi Washington, Miguel Atwood Ferguson and Kendrick Lamar just to name a few. With his debut "Astral Progressions" he's poised to make himself a household name. Leimberg has brought along some of his friends who help share his vision. "Interstellar Universe" features the aforementioned Washington on Tenor Sax and embodies the big sound in the form of strings and a chorus found on his recent recording "The Epic". Georgia Anne Muldrow sounds right at home on the cosmic sounds of "As I Think Of You". Other notable tracks are "Between Us 2" featuring Bilal and the title track featuring Kurupt. You'll no doubt want to hop on board this pleasant journey of celestial vibes and interstellar sounds. Leimberg's compositions seamlessly weaves elements of soul, jazz and hip-hop while incorporating his own sound. Thanks to this wonderful record, his audience is poised to grow at a rapid rate.
Reg Dancy, 01/17
Joy Denalane - Born And RaisedNesola Records/Four Music
Daughter of a South African father and a German mother, Denalane was born and raised in Berlin, and yet her singing voice is as American as they come. In the Mary J. Blige mould, she has a big, powerful sound that is just bursting with soul and which straddles perfectly the line between genuine R&B and a more commercially minded approach. With only three guest vocalists on the album, the spotlight is well and truly focused on Denalane's talent, but the fact that one of those guests is Lupe Fiasco and another is Raekwon shows that there was no messing around here. Undoubtedly, the label/production team hoped and fully intended for 'Born And Raised' to achieve global success, and a couple of flaky ballads and fluffy fillers notwithstanding, it seems that they may just get their wish.
Tom Breslin, 05/07