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
Mike Whellans - Fired Up & ReadyTemple Records
Terrific one man blues band who is a fine singer, guitarist and blues harpist. He’s not against inviting some classy friends to join him either including David Bromberg and Mike Katz with my pick going to to his take on Rory Gallagher’s ‘Going To My Home town’ joined by Brian Miller on mandolin. Great stuff.
Graham Radley, 10/08
Mikey Ras Starr - Fire & RainMakasound
Makasound find another gem, with this release originally recorded in 1979. plus various singles including Mikey’s first one ‘Got To say Love’ from 1975 and others through to 1984, great collection of musicians too including Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh and Robbie Shakespeare. Sweet.
Graham Radley, 08/08
Milez Benjamin - Feel GloriousTru Thoughts Recordings
Futuristic funk from the trio known as Milez Benjamin. Milez Benjamin consists of three members Gerd, Delgui and Colonel Red. They all came together in 2004 and started planting the seeds for this project and the results are very impressive. “Chop That Wood” is as funky as any record you’ll hear this year. Colonel Red leads the trio on the chorus and features some stellar bass playing. “Our House” keeps things moving in the same direction with the only difference is that it features some nice synth playing to add flavor to the track. “Soundcheckin’” is a little more broken than most of the tracks here but it’s funky and loose. All in all, “Feel Glorious” makes it very hard for you not to have a good time. Each track is armed with catchy hooks and a thumping bass throughout. These guys sound like they had a lot of fun making this record. You’ll have fun watching your friends move to this at your next party.
Reg Dancy, 04/08
Milton Nascimento - Maria MariaFar Out Recordings
Far Out recordings presents "Maria Maria" a classic recording from Milton Nascimento. Originally recorded in 1976, it features some of Brazil's most revered musicians such as the late Nana Vasconcelos and Joao Donato. The concept of "Maria Maria" came from a show conceived by himself and songwriter Fernando Brant based on the composite life story of the daughter of a black slave called Maria. Nascimento wrote the music while Brant wrote the lyrics but they both collaborated on the title track. This cinematic production is filled with spoken word interludes bridged between Nascimento's smoothing vocals and folk flavoured compositions. Highlights include "Trabalhos" and "Os Escravos De Jo", the latter is a spirited composition that features Toninho Horta on guitar along with vocalists such as Nana Caymmi, Fala de Belem and Beto Guedes. Nascimento's love of cinema is brought to life here and is falsetto vocals lifts these compositions to another level. For long time fans these previous hard to find recordings are a must have. For newcomers this is a great introduction for one of Brazil's most treasured vocalists.
Reg Dancy, 02/20
Minus 8 - Slow MotionCompost Records
Robert Jan Mayer, the architect behind Minus 8 is well established as a producer of quality drum n bass and down-tempo music. On his latest release, “Slow Motion” he delivers his usual assortment of gorgeous lounge flavored down-tempo grooves but he has also crafted some delicious dance tracks as well. Let’s start with “Letting Go”, where Virag’s blissful vocals are layered with an acoustic guitar strumming that feels like a cool breeze on an autumn afternoon. “Soverato” is a warm and seductive instrumental that is augmented by the sultry saxophone playing. “Enigma of a summer afternoon” is a mellow synthesized mid-tempo groover. Robert has exercised his ability to stretch out into different genres on previous releases with uneven results. Here he does a nice job infusing blissful dance tunes like “Wonderland”, which features Mirian S. “Make your Day” is an 80’s style boogie tune that is delightful and fun. “Hustler” sounds a little out of place here and the vocals are uninspiring but that is the only hiccup here on this otherwise enjoyable record. Overall “Slow Motion” will satisfy long time fans and will make new listeners feel right at home.
Reg Dancy, 12/09