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Kokoroko: Kokoroko

Read "Kokoroko" reviewed by Chris May

If you ask an Afrobeat fan to name their favourite bands--excluding lineups led by Fela Kuti during his lifetime--the probability is that their top five choices will include Seun Kuti's Egypt 80 and Femi Kuti's Positive Force, both based in Lagos, along with Dele Sosimi's Afrobeat Orchestra, based in London. Other credible outfits have emerged, but none which has so far seriously challenged that tripartite ascendancy. London trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey's Kokoroko is an outfit to watch, however, combining, as it ...

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Zara McFarlane: East Of The River Nile

Read "East Of The River Nile" reviewed by Chris May

As a teaser for her upcoming album, the divine Zara McFarlane has released a 4-track EP revisiting Jamaican dub and rockers wizard Augustus Pablo's canonical 1977 single “East Of The River Nile." McFarlane's disc, on which her wordless vocals stay close to Pablo's original melodica topline, showcases her signature blend of jazz and Caribbean music to transporting and trippy effect (pass the chalice, folks). The track is produced by McFarlane's longtime drummer and collaborator Moses Boyd and arranged by trombonist ...

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Maisha: There Is A Place

Read "There Is A Place" reviewed by Chris May

The London jazz scene, which is in 2018 more active and characterful than it has been since the jazz-dance movement of the 1980s, offers up another jewel with this debut physical-release by spiritual-jazz septet Maisha. The band, led by drummer Jake Long, surfaced in 2016 with the download-only live album Welcome To A New Welcome (Jazz Re:freshed) before gaining a bigger profile as the group chosen to open the epoch-defining various-artists compilation, We Out Here (Brownswood, 2018). That album was ...

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Joe Armon-Jones: Starting Today

Read "Starting Today" reviewed by Chris May

Something exceptional is happening in London in spring 2018. A succession of albums, recorded by an intimately connected community of around 60 young musicians, is taking jazz in ear-opening new directions. Hybridisation and genretic modification are the names of the game, but the scene also reaffirms the music's traditional building-blocks, among them the creativity of black musicians in Britain, North America, the Caribbean and Africa. Nothing quite like this has happened in Britain for around 30 years. Not on this ...

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Shabaka And The Ancestors: Wisdom Of Elders

Read "Wisdom Of Elders" reviewed by James Nadal

This recording is the culmination of the triangular experiences of tenor man Shabaka Hutchings and his personal destiny. Born in London, his family relocated back to their native Barbados, where Hutchings was raised in a musical environment until his teen years. Returning to London, he became a fixture on the free jazz scene, and while on holiday to South Africa, was drawn back to the primordial source of inspiration. Recorded over one day with no rehearsal, Wisdom Of Elders explores ...

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Zara McFarlane: If You Knew Her

Read "If You Knew Her" reviewed by Phil Barnes

In the current short term, fast buck, major label A&R climate Brownswood stand out like a beacon for the way that they back and develop their artists. Perhaps the different ethos comes from the top, Gilles Peterson is the label boss after all, but in any event less sensitive hands might not have allowed a talent as great as Zara McFarlane to develop after her promising, solid, yet not especially high selling debut Until Tomorrow from 2011. Peterson's ...

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Zara McFarlane: If You Knew Her

Read "If You Knew Her" reviewed by C. Michael Bailey

On her full-length follow up to 2010's EP Until Tomorrow, London-based singer Zara McFarlane perfects her blend of austere instrumentation and mantra-like rhythms supporting her rich and warm voice that owe more to Mongo Santamaria than reputedly Nina Simone or Roberta Flack. An album centerpiece, “Woman in the Olive Groves" undulates like “Afro Blue" while being able to act as its logical prelude. Backed by a traditional rhythm trio, McFarlane fulfills the potential of her subtle and muscular voice which ...

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Zara McFarlane: Until Tomorrow

Read "Until Tomorrow" reviewed by Bruce Lindsay

Until Tomorrow, from young London-based singer and writer Zara McFarlane, is a delight. This is not McFarlane's first recording--her 2010 self-produced six-track EP, also called Until Tomorrow, debuted some of these songs, and she has also recorded with the Jazz Jamaica All Stars--but it's her first full-length album. Filled with fresh and beautifully crafted compositions, it signals McFarlane's maturing talents as a singer and songwriter with a distinctive take on the art of the song. McFarlane is ...

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Elan Mehler: The After Suite

Read "The After Suite" reviewed by Chris May

This achingly beautiful, elegant album is only the second from Brooklyn-based pianist and composer Elan Mehler, being the follow-up to his debut, Scheme For Thought (Brownswood, 2007), another quietly sensational disc. If it might have seemed rather too breathless to have hailed a debut as a masterpiece, the temptation cannot be resisted second time out. The After Suite is a masterpiece with a capital “M."

A dreamy, spacious, alternating current of poignancy and joy, Mehler's writing and playing ...

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Jose James: The Dreamer

Read "The Dreamer" reviewed by Chris May

Listen out for this guy in 2008. Vocalist Jose James isn't going to be the next Jamie Cullum--his style is too understated and his attitude faces purposefully away from the mainstream--but The Dreamer, Brooklyn-based James' debut album, has star quality.

James made a splash in late 2007 with a reworking of John Coltrane's “Equinox," and he's four-square in the post-bop vocal tradition established by older singers like Mark Murphy, Jon Lucien and Leon Thomas. But there ...

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Elan Mehler Quartet: Scheme For Thought

Read "Scheme For Thought" reviewed by Frederick Bernas

Scheme For Thought was released on Gilles Peterson's Brownswood Recordings in September 2007, accompanied by a series of gigs around London, England by pianist Elan Mehler and his quartet. This group has completely abandoned standard notions of jazz: the absence of a drummer and repeated use of arco playing on the double bass give an almost classical and very ambient feeling to this ten-track set.

There is a great deal of subtle harmonic interaction between Mehler and the sometimes ghostly ...

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The Heritage Orchestra: The Heritage Orchestra

Read "The Heritage Orchestra" reviewed by Chris May

Here's something wonderful and totally unexpected, an out-of-left-field, feel-good sonic surprise...

The Heritage Orchestra is a 45-piece symphony orchestra with an average age of 25, featuring jazz soloists and rhythm section, mixing classical orchestration with Hollywood and TV soundscape stylings and a splash of nu-soul. It's an exuberant and invigorating romp.

The band was put together eighteen months ago for a series of club nights at London's Cargo, and it was such a sensation that it looks like it's sticking ...