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Reviews: Future Jazz / Soul


Review: Various Artists Afro-Rock, Vol. 1

Label: Strut

Among the many Afrobeat comps out there, Strut's reissue of Duncan Brooker's impeccably curated Afro-Rock, Vol. 1, originally issued on Kona in 2001, is especially welcome. It doesn't take a collector to appreciate the consistent, engaging quality of this disc, which lovingly showcases choice cuts of East African funk, soul, and jazz from the '60s and '70s. Particularly notable here are Orchestra Lissanga's "Okuzua," its guitars ringing with a delicate, delightful cadence, and the funky, infectious opening track, Ishmael Jingo's "Fever," an essential in this realm. Read more » 

Review: Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings I Learned the Hard Way

Label: Daptone

Just as Brooklyn soul-revival impresarios Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings' live show has progressed from raw funk to Stax-style revue, their recordings have been a process of settling into the ensemble's talent. I Learned the Hard Way is easily the group's best effort yet, an album of classic songwriting and sharp musicianship belying its own complexity. From near-orchestral arrangements ("The Game Gets Old") to playful studio ease (recession anthem "Money"), this is a disc even Isaac Hayes would covet. Read more » 

Review: James Pants Seven Seals

Apparently, the dapper B-boy, who long ago spent his prom night charming Peanut Butter Wolf, now wants to start a doomsday cult. But never mind Seven Seals' tacky, occultist artwork—James Pants is still a charmer. He holes himself deep into a scuzzy, ramshackle noise and his mess is simply immaculate. Pants oddly clashes punk thrash with medieval Kraftwerk synth riffs on "Beyond Time," while "Wash to Sea" finds him cleverly revising Joy Division as a lounge act. Read more » 

Review: Georgia Anne Muldrow Umsindo

Label: SomeOthaShip

After devoting the past year and a half to collaborative albums, releases under pseudonyms, and prominent features on albums by Erykah Badu and Mos Def, singer-songwriter/producer Georgia Anne Muldrow continues her evolution with her third studio album. Umsindo (Zulu for "sound") finds her bravely musing over life (“Roses”), death (“Daisies”), the human condition (“I.Q.”), and the bliss of new motherhood (“E.S.P.”). Read more » 

Review: Sa-Ra Creative Partners Nuclear Evolution: The Age of Love

Label: Ubiquity

Their glorious reputation precedes them. The Kanye West affiliation. The production work for the likes of Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, and John Legend. The Japan-only limited run vinyl EP pressings. Reuniting with Ubiquity after five years, the L.A.-based Sa-Ra Creative Partners deliver their sophomore full-length in the form of these 17 supercalifunky tracks. Read more » 

Review: Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens What Have You Done, My Brother?

Label: Daptone

With the support of the Daptone family, Alabama-raised New Yorker Naomi Shelton and her wise, stirring voice are finally being heard on a full-length release. On What Have You Done, My Brother?, Shelton conveys a genuine sense of everyday life and the struggles that surround it. The blatantly religious numbers won’t speak to everybody, but most of these warm gospel, soul, and blues tracks have an undeniable appeal. On “I’ll Take the Long Road,” a bluesy song about patience, the music seems especially timeless. Read more » 

Review: Various Artists Eccentric Soul: Smart's Palace

Label: Numero Group

From 1963 to 1975, Smart’s Palace was a soul shack in the heart of Wichita, Kansas where, on any given night, it wasn’t uncommon to see Baby Neal & the Smart Brothers or Tim Jacob shaking up the house from center stage. Just as it has done so many times before, Numero Group directs our ear streams to another unknown, yet thriving scene from the past and administers a little bump and rattle to the hips along the way. Read more » 

Review: NOMO Invisible Cities

Label: Ubiquity

Dumpster diving pays. Producer Warren Defever (of His Name is Alive) used street-sweeper tines and donated hardwood scraps to create kalimbas used throughout this sister album to last year’s Ghost Rock. While the word funk often conjures up images of Daptone-style revivalism, NOMO requires an adjustment of definitions. Yes, NOMO is funky—check their Afrobeat-inspired groove and tight horns—but they’ve got the experimentation of electronic music and the exploratory restlessness of jazz, creating an unfolding sense of discovery. Read more » 

Review: Betty Padgett Betty Padgett

Label: Ubiquity

A soul singer who started out in Miami in the mid-’70s, Betty Padgett has a sweet, down-home sound. The disco-laced single “Sugar Daddy,” with its polite requests for ice and a trip to Italy, comes from an era far removed from Beyonce’s self-made assertiveness. But Padgett’s simple vocals and delivery belies the multicultural mix of music on her reissued debut. Here she champions Miami as a cultural crossroads, a city where slack reggae grooves, conga beats, soul flavor, and pastel disco melodies mingle on the South Beach sand. Read more » 


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