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European Jazz, Electronic Beats, Worlds of Dub and a Sound Soul Orchestra

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The Quantic Soul Orchestra
Pushin' On
Ubiquity
2005

As the mastermind behind Quantic, Will Holland scored a major hit in electronic and club music circles with last year's Mishaps Happening. Here performing on organ, bass, guitar, sitar, percussion, and saxophone, he leads the Quantic Soul Orchestra, the concert ensemble he formed to "put the funk back in it, through its US debut.

It might be an overused expression, but this is a great party record. Holland the songwriter offers tunes that throb and groove; Holland the producer gives them a warm and punchy sound. Hard-rocking snare drums snap the snaky rhythms of "West Pier Getdown and "The Conspirator (Main Theme) tightly into place. "Get A Move On whippets on an up-tempo boogaloo beat while lead flute stirs up Holland's jam pot.

Holland borrows two cover versions quite unusual for a soul record, music for films composed by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse: "Hold On Tight and "Feelin' Good, which slides along strings that project a sleek European, but no less soulful, feeling. "Paintings and Journeys also uses strings, and swaps acoustic in for electric guitar, to ride its smooth funk glide.

James Brown's "Cold Sweat sounds like the template for "Pushin' On, its instrumental funk and Alice Russell's steaming vocal creating a proud new soul sister to Aretha Franklin's classic "Rock Steady. Meanwhile, the bass line to "That Goose on My Grave crackles like Brown's incendiary "I Can't Stand Myself (When You Touch Me). From the sound of things, Holland certainly did not miss many James Brown lessons. And if you're going to build a house of soul, it seems wise to start with blueprints from the man who laid the original foundation.

Dub Gabriel
Bass Jihad
Azra
2005

Primarily written, performed and produced by Dub Gabriel, Bass Jihad spans and touches all four corners of the world—if "all four corners means Jamaica, India, the Middle East and Brooklyn.

Gabriel begins this mystical electrical journey alongside Ahad Nazarzadeh-Saaz with "War in the Poppy Fields, a panic of Middle Eastern wind and percussion instruments that drops down into—then yanks the beat back from—spacious reggae chord and echo effects.

All Gabriel's influences—sitar, electronics, percussion, loops and scratches—come together in "Saaz Remains the Same, crashing waves of different musics combining in one cogent piece that is electric and fast-paced like modern life, but also echoes ancient Arabian and African, even Caribbean, tribal cultures. "Rumi Go Through Me constructs from percolating percussion, chirping electronics, sitar and melodica another evocative soundscape typical of this set.

Along with these exotic electric combinations, Gabriel allows different individual threads to shine through, too. "Musique de L'ame builds nimble African percussion rhythms into a soft ambient, almost tender, trance mood. "Dis Song, featuring Kerac and Dave Hill, Jr., is a turntablist's dream shredded through with scratches and loops and thumped from underneath with congas and other acoustic percussion.

Bass is the Place and "Zooklyn rock hard, even with their odd-time instrumental breaks and spirited vocal incantations. More funk music than world music, their coiled and thumping beats move slow and lazy but powerfully—like a panther can move. Tough stuff.

Hipnosis
Carrousel
Perfect Toy
2005

This Munich quintet titled its debut simply Jazz. It was so well received in their homeland that it was subsequently released for Jazz-heads in the UK and Japan, too. Completely composed, performed and produced by the band, this second full- length release showcases Hipnosis' excellent musicianship—especially Wanja Slavin (alto sax, alto clarinet) and trombonist Gerhard Gschlössl up front—in a program challenging enough to feel like a classic post-bop mainstream quintet date, perhaps a little lost in time but not quite anachronistic.

"Nova Express blasts off a high-powered rocket of ensemble playing that flies first class all the way, with saxophone introducing the melody, a melody heated by repeated rhythm section riffing to serve as the launching pad for the horn solos.

"The Opposite of Hamburg and "Prosciutto Di Fama let fly two more wind-jammers, Slavin blowing red-hot counter to Gschlössl's cool as they chase each other through the bebop jam format: Introduce the melody through the opening measures, then run away from the melody as fast as you possibly can in liberating exploration. More of an open construction, "Soul Search opens with saxophone backed only by drums, then slowly folds in trombone and other instruments.

The first two tracks—the title track and subsequent "Dewendiana —showcase pianist Marc Schmolling as soloist and accompanist, especially that second cut, where he kicks the rhythmic pants of both the drums and saxophone!


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