Review: The first release from the Axis Audiophile Series. Jeff Mills has formed an electronic jazz fusion band and this 12? is a recording of their recent performance in Kobe during the TodaysArt.JP Festival. Mills manages the decks, drums and percussion and is joined Detroit legend and Underground Resistance stalwart Gerald Mitchell (Los Hermanos/Galaxy 2 Galaxy), keyboardist Yumiko Ohno and bassist Kenji Jino. "Eventide" has the same kind of urban, uplifting soul as anything Kaidi Thatham or Mark de Clive-Lowe have made and isn't bad at all! On the flip "Happy Gamma Ray" features uplifting keys and emotive chords backed by funk bass and one of Mills' unmistakeable 909 drum machine workouts. It really seems that there's no limit to this Motor City legend's creativity which has spanned nearly 30 years and we're excited about this new chapter in the Wizard's sonic universe.
Review: Upon his death in 1996, many within the jazz community heaped fulsome praise on Shoji Yokouchi. To this day, he remains one of Japan's finest jazz guitarists; a dexterous and inventive guitarist capable of playing immaculate, blues-inspired solos on both electric and acoustic guitars. Proof of his skills is provided by this reissue of Greensleeves, an album he recorded in 1978 alongside his regular "Trio" and organist Yuri Tashiro. Musically, the album offers an attractive blend of jazz-funk, "trad" and fusion tracks laden with impeccable solos from both Yokouchi and Tashiro. The best combination of the two players' styles can be found on "Misty", a fine blend of undulating fairground organ flourishes and evocative Spanish guitar.
Review: Hozan Yamamoto is a widely revered figure in Japan, and a true icon of the seventies jazz scene. This album from 1971 is one of this best and a seminal work that effortlessly floats through fusion, soul and big band styles and has been basically impossible to buy in original format. Trust Mr Bongo to come correct with this fully licensed version which features his trademark flute playing and finds the maestro in a soaring, uplifting mood here. Big brass adds weight to his leads while well formed grooves drive the album along. Add in subtle Japanese stylings and it all adds up to a J jazz classic.
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.