Sleep Walker - WorksVillage Again
The latest release from Japanese jazzers Sleep Walker is essentially a compilation featuring tracks which haven't made it on their albums plus their remixes of other artists' material. It kicks off with two tracks from the new 12" released on Especial, 'Quiet Dawn' and the amazing 'Wind' featuring Yukimi Nagano. The Bembe Segue fronted 'River Of Love' is also included along with their rework of Kyoto Jazz Massive's 'Eclipse' and a new take on 'Waltz For Moe', the original of which appeared on 'The Room - 10th Anniversary', a four track EP released in 2003. Their re-work of Jazzinho's 'Sim Ou Nao' is a worthy inclusion but check their blissful remix of Victor Davies 'Don't Believe A Word' from his recent 'Hear The Sound - Remixed' set.
Andy Allen, 06/07
Sleepwalker - The VoyageVillage Again
The quartet made up of Hajime Yoshizawa, Masato Nakamura, Kiyoshi Ikeda and Nobuaki Fujii are back on top form with eight more future jazz classics. As Soil and Pimps finally received a well overdue European release, it's great timing to continue the supply of Japanese jazz. We were given a taster of things to come at the end of 2005 with the Especial 12" that included "Into The Sun" featuring Bembe Segue and the title track featuring then legend Pharoah Sanders. The beautiful vocalist Yukimi Nagano has also been drafted in on "Afloat". The formula and sound we know and love continues, with loads more Flute, Piano and Saxophone solos over the baddest jazz percussion in town. Over the following months you should be guaranteed to hear the soon to be massive "Ai-No-Tabi", assuming you support the right club nights and DJs. All in all, you need this.
Simon Harrison, 08/06
Slope - Slope is DopeSonar Kollektiv
Slope has always been consistent over the years and never really put a foot wrong. Even though I write that, recently I saw some of his remixes being released and finding myself not giving them a listen. Some of the best tracks on Clara Hill's album were produced by Slope but again I didn't quite register, that is until now. This is one album that I went back to again and again over Christmas. With quality remixes from Henrick Schwarz, Meitz, Daz-I-Kue and Afronaught, plus Slope re-works of Fat Freddy's Drop, 1Luv, Deyampert and Daniel Magg this has finally woken me up to how good Slope is. Yep, he's dope!
Simon Harrison, 01/07
Sly & Robbie and Amp Fiddler - Inspiration InformationStrut Records
I can’t say I saw this coming but the wealth of talent between these three men is undisputed so nothing short of quality should be expected. Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare need no introduction. They have been laying down beats and rhythms for just about everybody for over thirty years. Amp Fiddler fine tuned his funk skills while working with George Clinton’s P-funk group. He then went on to make two critically acclaimed records, “Waltz Of A Ghetto Fly” and “Afro Strut”. On “Inspiration Information”, Amp, Sly and Robbie sound as if they’ve been working together for years. On “Crazy Day” Amp vocals glide over the mid-tempo beats and while also laying down some nice organ riffs. “Blackhouse” finds Amp dropping insightful lyrics over a soothing bouncy beat. “Lonely” is a traditional reggae track that is tailor made for Amp’s passionate vocals. Overall “Inspiration Information” is an enjoyable laidback record by two legends and a rising soul funk star that will provide good vibes and immediate satisfaction.
Reg Dancy, 09/08
Sly Johnson - The Mic BuddahHeavenly Sweetness
"The Mic Buddah" is the full length release from the multi-talented Parisian native Sly Johnson. Best known for his wide range of skills as a singer, beat-boxer and rapper. Aside from the intro "Ouverture" where he provides a glimpse of his superb beat-boxing skills. Johnson allows his rich soulful vocals to do most of the heavy lifting and that's more than enough, Highlights include "Everybody's Dancin'" laced with infectious beats and thumping bass grooves. "Why" is another delight, a hazy down-tempo tune. Vocalist Rachel Claudio drops poignant spoken word lyrics and trumpeter Eric Truffaz melodic phrasings is the icing on the cake. ."Music" is filled with blissful samba rhythms while Magic Malik steps in with warm flute melodies, Malian rapper Oxmo Puccino displays exceptional flow and is a perfect fit for this track. Gritty vocals wrapped around soulful hip-hop textures will grip your hips to force you to move. Johnson is a talent whose star can only get brighter with releases like this.
Reg Dancy, 03/16
Smoove - First ClassJalapeno Recordss
DJ/Producer Smoove has long established his allegiance to the funk and his love for Hip-Hop through his DJ sets as well as his recordings with partner Turrell. On his latest solo project “First Class”, he treats us to his exclusive remixes from an array of artists who know how to lay down a groove. “Traveling Man” is a prime example of the funk that is brewing here as Jazz & Blues singer Brenda Boykin croons over a sizzling organ grinder meets thumping bass groove. Smoove turns up the heat with some well-placed edits on “Baby Your Lovin” by Electmric Empire. “Da Wiesel” by Boogaloo Stomp evokes memories of Kool & The Gang’s “Love & Understanding” and hearing this again will get you moving on the good foot. Other highlights include “It’s My Funk” by Charlie Funk feat Afrika Bambaataa & King Kamonzi and “Son Montuno” by the Una Mas Trio. “Frist Class” is exactly that; a first rate funk and soul burner that delivers from beginning to end.
Reg Dancy, 12/12
Snarky Puppy - Family Dinner Vol.1Ropeadope
Led by bassist, composer and producer Michael League, Snarky Puppy is a soul/funk collective, who although new to me actually formed in 2004. They’ve had numerous releases, all of which have been instrumental but on Family Dinner they have enlisted the assistance of top notch vocalists to create some outstanding music. The set was recorded and filmed live at Jefferson Center, Roanoke, VA in front of a select audience and this package not only includes the album but also a DVD of the performance. Free Your Dreams kicks off proceedings, a tasty organic soul groove featuring Chantae Cann before touching on other solid moments such as the moody Deep, fronted by N’Dambi and the playful Latin jazz dancer Amour T’es La? with Magda Giannikou. Lalah Hathaway revisits Brenda Russell’s Something, a song which she initially covered on her debut album back in 1990, and boy does she rip it up on this new version, performing vocal acrobatics that are quite simply mind blowing. This is soul with a capital S and deserves to be massive.
Andy Allen, 03/14
Snowboy - New York AfternoonSnowboy Records
Veteran DJ/Percussionist Mark Cotgrove aka Snowboy has had a long and distinguish career. He's been an in demand session percussionist, working with esteemed artists like Lisa Stansfield and James Taylor. With his sixteenth album. "New York Afternoon" he has covered of some of his favorite recordings and given them new life. The title track is a cover of the Richie Cole dance classic. The tune is sung by vocalist Mark Evans and backed by sexy horns and sunny rhythms. "Ole Mambo" originally by Edmundo Ros receives an overhaul complete with horn overdubs and sounds more progressive than the original. With "Better" and "Oxen Free" Cotgrove covers two tunes from Boston Mass singer/pianist Jen Kearny. who returns the favor by adding her vocals to the revamped recordings. Cotgrove's production and arrangements are first rate and the musicians on board are simply superb. A tremendous recording where the covers actually out do the originals. Cotgrove demonstrates once again that he's a sparkling conga player and an important ambassador of Latin music.
Reg Dancy, 04/16
Soil & Pimp Sessions - Pimp MasterVictor Records
Soil & Pimp Sessions return after their quality debut album 'Pimpin', which featured the full on jazz classics 'fuller love' and 'harbor', both of which eventually found their way onto a limited 12". With the release of 'Pimp Master', it seems they have finally found the attention they deserve, but that could be due to the big knob djs finally seeing what was right under their noses. Intense right from the moment 'No Taboo' kicks off, you know you're in for a roller coaster of a ride with yet more dancefloor anthems and modal numbers to give you a chance to get your breath back. This is proper jazz music for 2005 and I can't wait to see them live.
Simon Harrison, 05/05
Soil & Pimp Sessions - Pimp Of The YearVictor Records
Is there no stopping these guys?! It was only last month I reviewed their 'Crush!' EP, and here they are again with a full length album, 'Pimp Of The Year'. If you've been paying attention then you know the score, this is jazz with punk attitude. The set features 'Summer Goddess' and 'Crush!', the title tracks of their last 2 EPs along with goodies such as 'Worldwide' (a dedication to Gilles perhaps?!) and 'Sahara' with it's stunning piano work. My particular favourites though are 'Scoop Out' which sounds like a 70s cop show theme, the feel good vibe of 'Last Long', a solid jazz-funk affair and track 8, a beautiful modal waltz. This track has a Japanese title and although on some web sites it's translate as 'Fragment' from the 'Summer Goddess' EP it is not the same track.
Andy Allen, 03/06