Teotima - Counting The WaysFirst Word
First Word was started back in 2003 by DJ Gilla (Aly Gillani) & Andy H in my home city of Leeds and has since developed into a widely respected and diverse label. Their latest release, Counting The Ways by Teotima, a fourteen piece ensemble put together and headed by guitarist and composer Greg Sanders is a real treasure. Horns and swirling strings wrap around soul, jazz, Latin and African rhythms to create an intoxicating mix. Vocalist Ellie Rose Rusbridge adds her haunting folky styling to the wonderful title track and Orange Lamps, both of which are my personal favourites but not to be overlooked are Nearly Everything which has Afro-beat undercurrents and the funky Gloves Off. This album is up there with the likes of The Cinematic Orchestra and The Heritage Orchestra!
Andy Allen, 03/14
Teressa Edwards - Days AheadStudio 45
Teressa Edwards was born and raised in Trinidad but now resides in England. Her My Space page states that this is both her debut and second album so I'm a little confused! Whatever the case may be 'Days Ahead' is a solid R&B/soul set which showcases Tersessa's sweet honey voice perfectly. She particularly shines on the nu-soul orientated tracks 'No More' and the title track, a simple but effective mellow groove with warm key chords.
Andy Allen, 05/07
Terkel Norgaard - With Ralph AlessiWe Jazz Records
We Jazz Records is quickly becoming one of my favorite labels for avant garde Jazz. Drummer Terkel Norgaard not only is a skilled drummer but is a talented composer as well. "With Ralph Alessi" a nod to the New York City based trumpeter who shows why he's been one of the premiere trumpeters of the last two decades. Norgaard's group consists of some of the key players on the Copenhagen scene. Alessi shines right from the start on "One". Alessi's beautifully fluid tone fits in perfectly alongside the trio's melodic excursions. "Seventeen" is another highlight that features cascading piano melodies from Soren Gemmer. Norgaard's subtle brush strokes on "Twentyone" is the fuse that inspires everyone to dive into his harmonic canvas. The Danish trio along with Alessi sound as if they've played together for years. Beyond satisfying and an example of improvised brilliance.
Reg Dancy, 06/19
Thatmanmonkz - Non Zero Sum GameShadeleaf
Sheffield resident Scott Moncrieff aka Thatmanmonkz has become a sought after DJ and producer on the strength of numerous house bangers for a number of labels. In 2016 he dropped his LP debut "Columbusing", a mash up of RnB, hip hop and House. Now he's back on his own Shadeleaf label with his follow up LP "Non Zero Sum Game". Monkz demonstrates a deft hand at multiple styles of House with sterling results. Among the highlights are the raw stripped down heater "Easy Still" featuring A Brother Is (better known as Pete Simpson). This is the track you'll find true house heads working up a sweat at the club at 2am showing no signs of slowing down. From there Monkz seamlessly weaves from the infectious Afro House of "Sawa Sawa" to the sensuous disco flavoured "Them Thangs" featuring the vocals of Ms Fae. "LVNLMTD" is another highlight that's filled with lush string arrangements that make it a sophisticated gem. If you're not familiar with Monkz then this is the perfect introduction to his work. After you're done with this essential recording I suggest you check out his earlier work as well.
Reg Dancy, 10/19
The 4orce - Mind the Gap Anthems Vol.2BBE Music
BBE and the UK's Producer and MC Steve Ellington join forces to give us this live offering from someone better known for remixing joints by Common, LL Cool J, and Buster Rhymes. On this British Hip Hop monster we are treated to a very soulful set of thirteen tracks helped along the way by Pete Cherry, Tim Baxter and Phoebe One and the most samples.. You will be racking your memory banks listening! Particular favourite here is "Precise Precision" for its soulfulness. Those looking for something harder should head straight to "Magnificent". Top marks for this release - quality hip hop CAN come without explicit lyrics.
Steve Williams, 01/08
The Abstract Orchestra - DillaATA
The Abstract Orchestra is a big band comprised of jazz musicians from around the UK placing an emphasis on hip-hop with "Dilla". Their latest release is filled with alternate takes from the catalogue of the acclaimed producer, the late J Dilla. Led by saxophonist Rob Mitchell who mirrors the mixture of rhythms and textures frequently constructed in hip-hop productions. "Fall In Love" brings all the elements together perfectly. Backed by an irresistible drum snare beat and topped off by lush strings and soothing horns. "A.N.G.E.L." is another banger that highlights the synergy between the strings and horns along with lush backing vocals. "Dilla Mix 1 & 2 is a medley of Dilla treats like "Last Donut" and "Welcome to The Show". Mitchell and company successfully capture the spirit of hip-hop and Dilla specifically with a superb LP that will remind you of his brillance.
Reg Dancy, 08/17
The Andy Tolman Cartel - CypherFreestyle
Inspired by the great movie soundtracks of the seventies, The Andy Tolman Cartel present "Cypher". This nine track lp captures the cinematic soundscapes that were as pivotal to film as the movie itself. An accomplished bass player, Tolman integrates funk and big band rhythms seamlessly throughout this disc. "Move Over" is a funky number that features Jo Harmon on vocals and Steve Watt on the Hammond Organ. "You What" is another sizzling highlight that kicks off with Tolman's funky guitar intro and features Carl Hudson on keyboards. Produced by Nick van Gelder who also occupies the drum chair on the entire disc. "Cypher" engages you to visualize some of your favorite movie scores and ensures you'll have a funky good time while doing so.
Reg Dancy, 01/18
The Apples - KingsFreestyle Records
The latest release by The nine piece ensemble known as The Apples is a testament on how the spirit of the funk fuses two worlds into one musical stew. The two main ingredients of this stew is Fred Wesley, he of the infamous JB’s and legendary funk pioneer trombonist who opens the first half of the disc. The second half features vocalist/percussionist Shlomo Bar, the Godfather of Israeli world music. Wesley provides the intro on the track “Howlin’ With Fred” with a funky riff that leads into a fierce groove laid down by the rhythm section. The title track provides more energetic funk improvisation by Wesley and the band and is augmented by DJ Todres turntable wizardry. Shlomo takes center stage on “Batash (Alwoojdi)”, a rhythmic Middle Eastern flavored tune highlighted by his vocal phrasing and percussion work on the darbuka. Shlomo also performs on “Banana Jam”, a musical gumbo filled with Afrobeat rhythms, wicked grooves and spirited horn arrangements. The band produced and arranged all tracks and each one stands on its own. It also helps that they kept the tracklist amount to eight tunes. At no time are you worn down by the amount of tunes or the lack of quality. That said “Kings” is an example of what happens when musical cultures collide and you surround it with talented musicians. The result is an engaging recording that is worthy of repeated listens
Reg Dancy, 01/11
The Baker Brothers - Time To TestifyRecord Kicks
Over the course of six full length albums, The Baker Brothers have demonstrated that they can pack a solid one two punch with a killer rhythm section and a hip winding funky horn section. On their seventh full length release “Time To Testify”, they continue to keep the pedal to the metal with an assortment of stripped down soulful grooves. The group starts out with a bang with the revved up “Statement Of Intent”, with the band contributing backing vocals as well. “Make Your Move” finds them slowing down the tempo into a sizzling laidback groover that displays impeccable rhythm guitar playing. Collectively the band displays strong vocal harmonies on several cuts but it is the instrumentals that really stand out for me. For instance “Roll It” kicks off with some irresistible rhythm guitar strumming followed up with some serious funky drumming. And there is the silky soulful “The Young Patter”, which was featured on “The Mo’ Record Kicks Act II” compilation, the band lays down a nice groove and horn section gets down and dirty with the funk. “Snap B” is a definite keeper that has a catchy vocal chorus but also displays some greasy Hammond B3 organ playing. This is another strong effort from one of the tightest bands in the modern soul movement that is certainly worth checking out.
Reg Dancy, 10/11
The Bamboos - By Special ArrangementBMG
With "By Special Arrangement", The Bamboos dive into the vault to deliver an alternate take on their classic soul compositions. Guitarist, songwriter and producer Lance Ferguson knew he wanted to do something different so he enlisted Ross Irwin for string arrangements and the results are reminiscent of early Stax Blues and soul recordings. Of course the lead vocals of Kylie Audist sound great in any style. Her soaring vocals capture you instantly with the opener "Keep Me In Mind". She plucks the heart strings on ballads "I Don't Wanna Stop" and "Stop" as well. "I Got Burned" is another slow soul burner that features Tim Rogers on lead vocals. Ferguson's echoing guitar compliments the swaying strings. Ferguson and company aren't resting on their laurels. They're pushing the boundaries while solidifying their status as one of the première funk and soul acts on the scene today.
Reg Dancy, 10/19