Maya Azucena - Junkyard JewelPurpose
Brooklyn native Maya Azucena first put her name on the map in 2003 with her debut "Maya Who?!". A great blend of soul and funk highlighted by a dynamic voice you would not forget even if you tried. For those in the know, it was quite obvious how talented this woman is. Finally, we have "Junkyard Jewel", an acoustic album with a solid band to provide her with a raw authentic sound. In this setting, the music is stripped down and the feeling is more personal. You get the impression that Maya reached back into her musical roots and pulled out hymns that have played a part of who she is today. The vibe has a folk feel to it and evokes all sorts of emotions. Be it joy, pain, spiritual or blues. It's hard to really zero in on tracks that stand out because the entire disc flows very well. However, "Runaway blues" really left a impression on me with the strong vocal harmonies laid out. The performance on "Wash Over" is downright stirring with violinist Tarrah Reynold's persuasive melodies. If that wasn't enough, she puts her stamp all over Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". Want to hear a beautiful voice in it's purest form? Make room for some quiet time and give "Junkyard Jewel" a listen.
Reg Dancy, 12/07
Me&You - Floating HeavyTru Thoughts Recordings
2007 is turning out to be the year of the cover song, with numerous raggae, jazz, funk and house versions doing the rounds on radio stations and dancefloors. One track I've not played for many years is Roni Size's "Brown Paper Bag": a classic, yes, but every time a certain Mr Peterson plays in Leeds, he plays this track without fail. I've never worked out why but maybe he'll explain one day. You&Me aka co-owner of Tru Thoughts Rob Luis and TM Juke have produced a reggae verison that has bought life back into "Brown Paper Bag". "Floating Heavy" is a cracking album that really mixes up the styles. From drum & bass, soul, broken beat, jazz, raggae, disco, dubstep through to break beats, this will keep me happy with anthems for the rest of 2007 and beyond.
Simon Harrison, 05/07
Medline - A Quest Called TribeMy Bags
French producer Medline's latest release "A Quest Called Tribe" pays tribute to A Tribe Called Quest. Medline adds a gentle touch along with a melodic soul jazz groove to some of our beloved recordings from the legendary hip-hop trio. For starters the classic "Relaxation Electrique" is transformed into a sublime number with soothing vibes. "Jazz (On A Du)" is a medley of well chosen Tribe treats. "Trouver une Voie" channels "Find A Way" from the Love Movement lp. A delightful reminder of just how treasured these tracks are. Not to mention the creative possibilities when placed in the right hands. Medline's cool rhythmic arrangements will ease any concerns. A superb record worthy of repeated listens.
Reg Dancy, 03/19
Menagerie - The Arrow Of TimeFreestyle
Producer and multi-instrumentalist Lanu Ferguson has serenaded us with a myriad of projects ranging from The Bamboos to Black Feeling. His broad musical vision have made him a sort after musician and created high anticipation for his releases. Menagerie, his latest project is no exception. Ferguson's latest is inspired by the 1970's spiritual jazz era and is filled with post bop spiritual and Afro jazz rhythms. "Evolution", erupts with an enchanting piano solo and percussion followed by Fallon Williams philosophical words of wisdom. "The Arrow Of Time" is another winner fueled by simmering horns, tantalizing keys and a harmonious vocal chorus. "Spiral" is an infectious jazz funk gem with a monster groove. "The Arrow Of Time" is a marvelous collection of compositions that inspire joyous energy and warm vibes. Ferguson once again knocks it out of the park with an album that provides definite satisfaction.
Reg Dancy, 02/18
Mia Doi Todd - GeaKindred Spirits
‘Gea’ is the seventh album from Californian, Mia Doi Todd, which, coming at the age of only 32, is pretty impressive. For those unfamiliar with her work, she is somewhat of a musical renaissance woman, a self-proclaimed singer-songwriter-guitarist-poet-painter-dancer. With her career to date representing a nomadic journey, both geographically and in terms of record labels worked with, this album was self-produced in collaboration with Carlos Nino (one half of Ammon Contact) & Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, and recorded in Todd’s native Los Angeles. The music is very much organic, one woman-and-her-guitar, story-telling Folk, accompanied only, if at all, by some ultra light bongo tapping. But the truth is that it’s really rather good and never ventures into tedious or twee territory, which is always an inherent risk. Certainly worth seeking out, particularly if you’re a fan of the likes of Juana Molina.
Tom Breslin, 05/08
Michael Garrick Sextet - Prelude to Heart Is A LotusGearbox Records
In 1970 the late, great pianist Michael Garrick released The Heart Is A Lotus on Argo, featuring vocalist Norma Winstone. Previously unreleased, Prelude to Heart Is A Lotus was recorded two years earlier for a BBC radio broadcast and includes three titles from that 1970 release but without Norma. The set does however feature other British jazz royalty, Don Rendell and Ian Carr on saxophone/flute and trumpet respectively. It opens with the title track, a modal masterpiece with Garrick playing harpsichord, which adds an unusual but compelling flavour. The spiritual Temple Dancer takes on an Eastern mood and Song By The Sea is a beautiful gentle piece laced with flute and delicate piano work. Although these are the standout moments for me, this album will serve as a welcome addition for any collector of British jazz.
Andy Allen, 03/14
Michael Olatuja - SpeakObliqsound
I always hold out hope that every year there will be at half dozen releases that will come out of nowhere and take me by surprise. After hearing about Michael Olatuja and finally listening to his glorious debut “Speak”, I knew I had a strong candidate to add to the top of the list. I wasn’t immediately familiar with Michael but after checking his background I started to discover that he wasn’t much of a newcomer at all. He has worked with a number of artists, including a stint in Terence Blanchard’s band. His apprenticeship has served him well. “Speak” is a musical ménage of jazz inspired rhythms, neo soul delights and spiritually influenced tunes that inspire hope for peace, love and brighter days ahead. Michael has also surrounded himself with some very talented vocalists and musicians tailor made for his compositions. One of those artists is the immensely talented Eska. I have heard Eska appear on several compositions but her performance on “After Call” easily ranks as one of my favorites. The Late Lynden David Hall reminds us what a treasured soul he was on “Hold On”, a mid-tempo soul groover aimed at lifting one’s spirits from the basements of despair and reminding everyone that prosperity is within reach. Eska appears again on “Yi Yipada”, a highly rhythmic tune has elements of jazz, samba and funk and is certainly one of the most enjoyable selections here. “Walk with me” is a spiritual lullaby that features Olatuja’s wife Alicia, who sounds a little like Lizz Wright and proves to be very talented in her own right. On the finale, “Mama Ola”, Michael eases back into the jazz chair and crafts a beautiful melodic composition that features Jason Rebello’s impeccable piano soloing as well as Jean Toussaint on sax. “Speak” is a tour de force of the highest order for the talented bassist. Clearly Michael Olatuja’s spirituality and his musical journey have molded him into an important artist who is barely scratching the surface of his talents. Based on this recording, we haven’t heard anything yet. Highly recommended.
Reg Dancy, 11/09
Michele Manzo - All RiseDarker Than Wax
Italian native multi-instrumentalist Michele Manzo's release "All Rise" flows from boom bap beats to laid back grooves. He demonstrates an ability to blend drum progarmming with live instrumentation seamlessly. "Crackablackalacka" is neck snapping hip-hop featuring Dudley Perkins and Georgia Anne Muldrow. "Train From Cali" is an mellow instrumental that oozes with warm vibes. Nicolas Ryan Gant's elevates the funky track "The Best" with his smooth vocals. A solid offering from the talented musician/producer that's certainly worth checking out.
Reg Dancy, 01/20
Mighty Mighty - See The LightSchema Records
Whilst I am a big fan of the Schema label, in more recent times I feel they haven’t been quite as consistent. With See The Light however, the debut from Helsinki based jazz sextet, the label is again right on point. Led by pianist Kari Setala, who produced and wrote the majority of the material here, Mighty Mighty really kick from the offset with top class dancers such as Backyard Boogie, Dark Sun, Karma, Time’s Up, a version of Stevie Wonder’s Too High plus the title track. Simba sees the band move into Headhunters territory, producing a great slab of spacey jazz-funk but they are equally adept on the down tempo cuts as evidenced on Once Again and the fusion excursion Seventh Sign. A very strong album!
Andy Allen, 03/14
Mike City - The Feel Good Agenda Vol.1BBE
Producer/writer Mike City made his mark in the early 2000s with the smash hit "I Wish" by Carl Thomas. From that point he would go on to pen tracks for Brandy, Angie Stone and countless others. For his latest full length release, he's invited a number of his friends are on board to lift these impressive RnB infused dance tracks to another level. Veteran Fayth Evans urban edged soprano vocals are the perfect match for the track "When I Luv". The angelic vocals of Teedra Moses float on the soulful house inspired "Been Too Afraid". The mid-tempo burner "You're In Heaven" is boasted by the deep smokey vocals of acclaimed songstress Lalah Hathaway. Additional appearances range from Terri Walker, Maysa to UK RnB legend Junior. The title speaks for itself. "The Feel Good Agenda Vol.1" is certain to give you happy feet and provoke repeated listens.
Reg Dancy, 09/17