Review: Tony Allen is on record as saying that The Source, his first album on iconic jazz label Blue Note, is the best recording he's made. Given his length of service and vast discography, that's a bold claim. Certainly, it's a fine album, with the legendary drummer and his selected musicians - mostly jazz players from Paris, plus a Cameroonian guitarist and previous Allen collaborator Damon Albarn on one cut - effortlessly blur the boundaries between Afrobeat and the kind of jazz pioneered by Allen's percussion heroes Art Blakey and Max Roach. It's a brilliant hybrid that fits Allen's unique style of drumming like a glove, and there's no doubt that the former Fela Kuti sticks-man is the real star of the show.
Review: Two titans of African music come together for a collaboration that will sadly never be repeated after the passing of the late Hugh Masekela. Allen's instantly recognisable drumming and Masekela's iconic trumpet are a match made in heaven - after all their paths first crossed back in the 70s thanks to Fela Kuti's galvanizing energy. Forget the throwback stuff trying to capture the spirit of the originators, this IS the originators sounding cool and deadly in every way. Funk lovers, Afrobeat heads, curious ears and dancing souls take heed - this right here is an unmissable transmission from two grandmasters in their field.
Review: Boom: three years, three albums. No biggie for Bristol duo The Allergies, Jalapeno's biggest success story since Kraak & Smaak. Each album shows them getting deeper into the groove, creeping away from the cheeky samples and sculpting their own pedigree funk originals. With Ugly Ducking Andy Cooper onside through the mix from the wild ride vibing "Fade Away" to the white knuckle lyrical fire of "Run It Back", there's a real band feeling to the whole album as familiar voices thread throughout the jams... including that of UK hip hop legend Dr Syntax.
Review: Maghreb rhythms and Tunisian vocals. The Brussels-based producer has flipped the script on this much-anticipated follow-up, swapping North African sounds and voices for those from the Indian sub-continent (the set was partially recorded in the city of Chennai). While this may surprise some, the basic formula - exotic rhythms created using drum machines, overlaid with a mixture of psychedelic electronics, traditional instrumentation and locally-sourced vocalists - remains as inspiring, heavy and intoxicating as ever. Given that he's pushed the boat out even more musically, Global Control/Immersive Invasion is arguably even better than its brilliant predecessor.
Review: Building on his Brownswood debut earlier this year - "Go See" on the label's deep-digging We Out Here collection - Ezra Collective's pianist and composer lays down his most expansive and expressive body of work to date. Weighing in at near album size, it's a powerful experience from the off as Afrikan Revolution's Asheber sets a political framework and sense of freshness and unity on the title track. Elsewhere we're treated to hazy bluesy hip-hop on "Ragify", raw freeform fizz on "London's Face" and soul-soothing narratives in the form of "Mollison Dub". Stunning.
Review: These days, Mulatu Astatke is widely considered to be the "Godfather of Ethiopian jazz". Yet when he recorded the two-part "Afro-Latin Soul" album in 1966, he'd just left music college in Boston. As this fine reissue proves, Astatke was years ahead of the game. While rooted in American jazz from the period, all 19 tracks (both albums have been compiled on to a single disc for this edition) draw heavily on Cuban jazz, in particular, as well as Ethiopian musical traditions. In truth, the latter aspect doesn't come through quite as strongly as you'd perhaps expect, though some of the album's highlights - the brilliant "Soul Power" in particular - draw more heavily on the percussive polyrhythms of Africa. Regardless, this is a superb set of forward-thinking global jazz that delivers high quality entertainment from start to finish.
Review: Despite being a bunch of white guys from Scotland, Average White Band released some of the heaviest and most authentic-sounding funk and soul of the 1970s, becoming big stars on both sides of America's racial divide. This deluxe, five-disc showcase showcases the best of their work during the '70s and early '80s. You'll find an opening disc of classics (think "Pick Up The Pieces", "Work To Do", "Let's Go Round Again" etc.), two discs packed with AWB tracks that were later sampled by hip-hop and R&B producers (the second of which features their awesome version of Ned Doheny's "Get It Up For Love", with Ben E King om vocals), a CD of alternate takes, 7" edits and 12" versions, and a collection of rarities and live recordings.