Review: This majestic jazz love letter was written in 2015. It was Hokkaido pianist Ryo Fukui's last album and now gets an official reissue allowing us all to once again sink into his personal contemporary jazz offering. Fukui is celebrated for his delicate styles and miraculous albums such as 1976's Scenery and a year later, Mellow Dream. He was not only a player, but also a club owner having linked up with his wife Yasuko to open his very own jazz space, Slowboat, in Sapporo in 1995. In the years after he honed and perfected his craft, taking it to new labels as heard here.
Review: Not to be confused with the mascara-clad indie rock band of the same name, Placebo was a 1970s Belgian jazz-funk combo founded by legendary European jazzman Marc Moulin. Within the rare groove and jazz-dance community, the group's sophomore set 1973 has long been considered a hard-to-find "must-have". Here Matasuna Records celebrates reaching a quarter-century of releases by offering up a seven-inch featuring two of the album's most celebrated cuts. A-side 'Polk' is a genuine jazz-funk delight: a storming dancefloor workout in which mazy, ever-more-intense electric piano solos ride a relaxed but floor-friendly groove. Flipside 'Balek' is, if anything, even better, with spacey synths, sharp horn lines and fluid electric piano solos sparring over another leisurely groove.
Review: Japanese jazz pianist Ryo Fukui is one of the most delicate and skilled payers of his generation. The Hokkaido pianist also owned his own jazz club, Slowboat, with his wife Yasuko, and this month two of his bets loved albums are being reissued with a special half speed remastering job. This one is a recording of him playing in New York with Lisle Atkinson on bass and Leroy Williams on drums. It was laid down in 1999 and inspired by Ryo's mentor Barry Harris. There are plenty of poetic reworks of classics and glowing piano pieces that easily wander their way into your heart.
Review: Blue Note Re:imagined is a carefully curated collection of brand-new covers of classic material from the legendary label as served up by a selection of the UK scene's most exciting young talents including Ezra Collective, Nubya Garcia and Brit Award-winning Jorja Smith. For this latest 7" it's Jordan Rakei, who actually hails from Aus, but let's not get mad about that because the super smooth soul singer reaches new heights on the free flowing, heart opening 'Wind Parade'. Jazz pianist Alfa Mist takes care of the flip with a suitably cosmic exploration on 'Galaxy' that pairs live, busy drums and soaring synths with rich chords.
Review: Black Cash & Theo AKA Thelonious Beats are Galaxy Sound Co's most experienced editors, having served up already nine excellent offerings on this label. Their latest careful bit of studio splicing work is again a cosmic and mind expanding jazz funk fusion with righteous grooves and life-affirming riffs. The A-aide is a sweet and seductive sound that comes up from below to sweep you off your feet and carry you away to the stars, then 'The Moving Finger' is a little more rooted on planet earth with its knotted bass riffs, glowing harmonies and rickety lead guitar riff, all finished off with some spiritual sax work.
Review: Pepite Records have a brilliant Holy Grail reissue on their hands here with two world music oddities that send seasoned collectors into fits of excitement. They come from French composer Jean Claude Oliver, who was a noted talent in his day and possible the first Parisian to own a sitar in the sixties. He worked with Serge Gainsbourg amongst others, while also working as Derboukas. Two of his finest experiments are served up for the first time here and mixes oriental vibes with eastern bossa. The original of the a-side is impossible to find and the 'Caravan March' gem on the B-side is a welcome addition that fuses psychedelic pop grooves with lush cello.
Review: Those who've studied Tony Allen's distinctive drumming style often cite Art Blakey as an influence, so it's little surprise to find him paying tribute to the legendary jazz drummer on this superb album. Joined by his regular band, Allen covers a quartet of tracks written and recorded by Blakey and his band, the Jazz Messengers. The results are predictably impressive, with Allen's loose and polyrhythmic percussion providing a rock solid foundation for the horns, piano and double bass that sits atop. It's naturally closer to all-out jazz than to Afrobeat, but still bristles with the kind of punchy horns and life-affirming playing that characterizes Allen's work. "Thunder Suite", in which Allen drops a number of sweaty drum solos, is particularly potent.
Review: It's 52 years since Thelonius Monk played the show at a California high school which makes up this new long player on Impulse. It happened after a 16 year old student at the school held a concert to raise some money for its International Club, and some how managed to persuade Thelonious Monk's manager that his charge should be the headliner. Monk obliged and turned up with his quartet, and in this recording you can hear every single detail from the creaks of the piano bench to Ben Riley's swishing hi-hats on 'Ruby, My Dear.' The backstory alone makes this one an essential purchase, while of course the music itself isn't too shabby, either.
Review: Since being touted as jazz's next big thing back in 2014, Moses Boyd has released very little music, though the few EPs he has put out have been uniformly superb. We'd expect plenty of hype around this debut album, but we can assure you it will be deserved. Boyd is a drummer by trade and it's the variety and quality of the rhythms - some framed by traditional jazz, others hip-hop, grime, dubstep, dancehall and Tony Allen style Afrobeat grooves - that really stand out, despite the presence of fuzzy, Fela Kuti style horn motifs, booming basslines, Juju guitar solos, liquid jazz-funk flourishes, dark trip-hop tropes and some suitably inspiring vocals. Boyd may have taken his time, but it was definitely worth the wait.
Review: Here's something to seriously set the pulse racing: a limited-edition quintuple "Brazil 45s" boxset curated by the effervescent DJ Format, and featuring ten tracks unearthed on his most recent crate-digging trip to South America. In keeping with his much-loved style, most of the material can be loosely described as "psyche break-beat", all of which was initially recorded and released in the 1960s and '70s. That means a blend of hallucinatory Brazilian funk and soul rich in sweaty, often densely layered drums, booming basslines, trippy vocals, eccentric production, mazy Hammond organ lines and rousing horns. The quality bar is set so high that picking individual highlights is tough; suffice to say, you need all ten tunes in your life (and in your record box).
Review: Andrew Wasylyk completes a trio of beautiful albums with this latest reoccur don 'Athens of the North'. Across all of the music, he has concerned himself with unearthing, reshaping and conveying the rugged landscapes of Eastern Scotland with lush instrumental music that shimmers inventively. The influence of greats like David Axelrod, Alice Coltrane and Mark Hollis looms large, but never to the detriment of Wasylyk's own exquisite playing. Light often shines through his mellifluous piano chords and dreamy wind sounds. There are subtle spiritual elements and hints of library music also colouring this most accomplished of works.
Salvation (Act III: Upon Whose Shoulders We Stand) (10:30)
Theme For Cecil (7:47)
Virgin (Act IV: 400 Years: The Clotilda) (10:19)
The Last Slave Ship (5:01)
Dogon Mysteries (4:57)
Review: Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids' Shaman! is a bold and adventurous new record. It is a study in jazz that takes cues from myriad different sounds and scenes. Sub-Saharan jazz, Afrobeat, free-jazz, Afro-Cuban music, spoken word, and more all colour in the tracks which have been written by a large cast of musicians. The album was recorded din London and features Pyramids co-founder Simmons on flute, longtime band member Sandra Poindexter on violin, plus guitar from Bobby Cobb, and three new members from Europe in Jack Yglesias, Ruben Ramon Ramos, and Gioele Pagliaccia. It makes for an expressive but introspective world that draws you deep into its midst, where you will be oh so happy to get lost.
Review: On Help, Timothy Duval is in his most ambitious mood yet. It finds him collaborate with King Kruele and The xx associate Rodaidh McDonald as well as Lil Silva, Vegyn and Mr Mitch during session help in both London and LA. Inspired by an exploration of mental health, YouTube tutorials, the healing powers of proper friendship and life in the music industry, it is a widescreen record that ranges from sentimental piano pieces to experimental pop via jazz piano, warped electronic textures and organic world music soundtracks. Spellbinding isn't the half of it.
Review: Jackie Mclean recorded the 'It's Time' long player back in one session in 1964. It finds post-bop and free jazz fused together with young trumpet sensation Charles Tolliver, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Roy Haynes, who all played original compositions by Mclean. The spirited sound was utterly new and fresh at the time and still makes a big impact all these years later, with real detail observed in the jacket graphics, printing quality and superior LP mastering quality. At times tender and reserved, at others exultant, this is a prized piece of jazz history.
Review: Hungarian jazz guitarist Gabor Szabo released some mighty fine music during his lifetime, including a string of brilliant albums on Impulse in the mid 1960s. By 1968 he'd left the legendary jazz imprint, but the quality of his releases just kept improving - as this reissue of key album "Dreams" proves. Naturally his fluid, partially improvised, often bluesy electric and acoustic guitar solos feature prominently throughout, bobbing and weaving around atmospheric backing tracks that variously mix and match elements of jazz, folk, South American rhythms, folk-rock, flamenco and gypsy-jazz. It's a brilliant, often awe-inspiring musical blend.
Review: A modern day Scott-Heron, without the myriad of demons on his back, Grammy-nominated jazz singer Porter has such a distinctive voice, charm and band command. He clearly lends himself well to edit culture (as proved by the huge success of the many "1960 What?" versions in recent years) and this 7" from Expansion is no exception. "On My Way To Harlem" is straight up narrative jazz with fantastic attention paid to the subtle samba and solemn horns. "1960 What?" speaks for itself; far more authentic to the original than the other versions that have popped up, if you've not already got a favourite edit - Jazz & Cole have the answer.
Review: Brownswood Recordings has high hopes for this debut album from the previously unheralded Yussef Kamaal, which brings together hyped producer Kamaal Williams (AKA Henry Wu) and fast-rising Afrobeat drummer Yussef Dayes. With such talent to draw on, you'd expect Black Focus to be rather good. Happily, it is, with the duo delivering a typically London-centric take on jazz funk. That means that they take as much inspiration from the work of Kaidi Tatham as, say, Herbie Hancock. The key to the album's success - and, yes, it is generally as special as Gilles Peterson suggests - is the fluid combination of Dayes' brilliant drumming and Williams' superb synth solos and effortlessly groovy Rhodes playing.
Street Dreams (feat Miguel Atwood Ferguson) (2:12)
One More Time (3:10)
1989 (feat Miguel Atwood Ferguson) (3:25)
Toulouse (feat Miguel Atwood Ferguson) (2:48)
Big Rick (3:29)
Save Me (feat Mach Hommy) (5:57)
Mr Wu (3:37)
Hold On (feat Lauren Faith) (3:12)
Early Prayer (5:02)
Review: Given that keyboardist and producer Kamaal Williams' 2018 debut album "The Return" was such a rip-roaring success critically and commercially, hopes are naturally sky-high for this delayed sequel. Happily, we can confirm that Williams has arguably excelled himself on "Wu Hen", once again blurring the boundaries between jazz-funk, seductive downtempo grooves, hazy space jazz, deep house influenced dancefloor workouts (see "Mr Wu", whose title references his other artistic alias, Henry Wu) and soft-focus soul - all with the assistance of an expanded line-up of guest musicians and vocalists. Perhaps the biggest impact is made by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, a composer whose string arrangements add an ear-catching new dimension to Williams work. Stunning stuff all told.