Review: Another weighty slab of Ethiopian music history from Mr Bongo... First up is the hugely influential fusionist Mulatu Astatke with the Latin-meets-Afro jam "Assiyo Bellema". Loaded with frenetic guitars and mesmerising drum work from Frank Holder, this was actually recorded during Mulatu's time in London. Flip for an equally influential force in Ethiopian music: Soul Ekos Band affiliate Teshome Meteku with a more traditional local sound, Teshome's yearning insistent vocals wrap around the horns and tight drums like fog around a mountain. Captivating.
Review: Those with a deep knowledge of Berlin's Ghanaian ex-pat "burger-highlife" scene may already be familiar with Lee Dodou, a singer who recorded a number of classic singles and albums during the 1980s as part of bands Georg Darko and Kantata. He retired from music in 1991, but has been persuaded to return to action by the Philophon team. This comeback single is pretty impressive all told, with A-side "Basa Basa" - a triumphantly celebratory chunk of 1960s "concert party" highlife rich in punchy horn lines and Dodou's full-throated vocals - being joined on the flipside by the slower, synth-laden "Sahara Akwantou". Brilliantly, the label describes this as "kraut-life" due to its unique (and rather good) fusion of highlife and German kosmiche.
Review: Manchester's Gondwana Records, run by Matthew Halsall, has been a constant source of good vibes and inspiration. Leaning on a jazz note, most of the material is centred away from the dance floor and yet there is always plenty of movement and joyous rhythm, particularly from Halsall's appearances. Here, we have a reissue of 2015's "Journey In Satchidananda", a majestic wave of jazz flutes, seductive piano keys, in what is an altogether dreamy sort of setting, which is further evolved on the supremely euphoric waves of the unbeatable "Blue Nile". At last, some contemporary jazz on 12" that has left us blown away..!
Review: Ernie Hawks & The Soul Investigators return to Timmion with a pair of brand-new soul scorchers, and this ain't no reissue business. For real. As per usual, the imprint know exactly where to source the very best in the contemporary gear while everyone else is looking to the 70s for that adrenaline rush. As it turns out, this is some marvellously constructed soul music, right from the heart and soul, with "Cold Turkey Last Time" and "Trackin' Down" containing all the elements of fine ballads that are both future-proof and utterly stand-out. Check it and don't wreck it.
Review: Following their surprise reunion and Strut-release album We Be All Africans last year, Idris and The Pyramids return... This time on Max Weissenfeldt's Philophon imprint. Laying down a spiritual arrangement so frenetic and full of its own life it takes up two parts, Idris's sax plays duet with Philophon's own vocalist Guy One. Gutsy, raw and full of surprises, it's another out-of-body experience from the longstanding jazz troupe.
Review: Over the last few years, Jimi Tenor seems to have settled into a new role as an elder statesman of left-of-centre Finnish jazz. He's also taken to composing music for film, as with the four cuts on this extended-play seven-inch. They're all featured on Kati Juruus's recent movie Cinema Dadaab, which focuses on the escapism films provide for the inhabitants of a refugee camp. Echoes of the setting and storyline can be heard across Tenor's compositions, which variously mix and match elements of jazz-funk, Blaxploitation-era soundtracks, the polyrhythms of Africa, the intoxicating instrumentation of the Middle East and the Finnish musician's own eccentric musical vision.
Review: Marie and Necalli's new Thee Lakesiders project has been snapped up by the Big Crown imprint and slapped up onto tasty 7" format! We just love new soul and jazz, with too many reissues filling up our charts these days, and especially if it sounds anywhere near as fresh as this. "Si Me Faltaras Tu" is a straight-up soul groover, made with LA's sun-kissed charm and South American sensibilities, while "Parachute" is the stand-out piece, all lo-fi and stripped-back, but filled with enough mystique and garage sensibility to render it comparable to the very best psych acts of the 70s. TIP!
Review: Rich gutsy soul from a man who's regularly described as Brazil's James Brown, "O Journalerio" is a blueprint funk jam. Released in 1971 (on his hyper-rare album BR-3) it's all about the orchestrated swing, bluesy groove and Hammond licks so lavish you need to towel on every listen. Flip for Som Tres... An off-shoot of the Sambalanco Trio, it's the sound of Cesar Camargo Mariano controlling a restrained rolling slice of filmic instrumental funk where horns, keys and drums gather momentum with big band drama. Neither have been released on 45" before, making this all the more special.
Review: It seems so obvious you wonder why it doesn't happen more often: Stefano Torossi's "Feelings" album from 2000 was made up of track titles that convey certain situations and emotions that he masterfully reflects in the music. This new double 7" includes the highlights, such as the racing jazz and trumpet stabs of "Running Fast," the sustained and uneasy chords of "Fearing Much" and "Feeling Tense," which is actually a pretty lush bit of smooth jazz. "Walking In The Dark" rounds off the double pack with playful guitars and luxuriant synths that are pure soundtrack goodness. Ace.
Review: Two premium Latin funk documents on one limited 45, Mr Bongo deliver once again: Marcos Valle needs no introduction to Brazilian music enthusiasts. "Mentira" is a self-cover as Valle takes his 69 classic "Mentira Carioca" and develops the dynamic with a vocal style that's highly reminiscent of Donovan. Flip for Toni Tornado's Black Rio anthem "Me Libertei". Fusing sleazy rock n roll with jazzy Latin soul, madly this is the first time it's ever graced a 45!
Review: The latest album on Manfred Eicher's mighty ECM Records imprint comes from Jakob Bro, a Danish jazz guitarist who has been releasing a mixture of beautiful, inspired and thought-provoking music since 2005. On "Bay of Rainbows", he's joined by double bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Joey Baron, though it's his layered electric guitar work - part Pat Metheny, part Jonny Nash - that catches the ear. As with many ECM releases, the material on offer here is not standard "jazz", instead twisting the form into new shapes equally inspired by ambient and experimental electronica (see the backwards solos and freestyle drumming of "Dug"). While the album is evocative and entertaining throughout, the focal point is undoubtedly closing cut "Mild (Variation)", an 11-minute ambient jazz epic that's breathtakingly beautiful.