Cards on the table, I was a late-comer to the whole soul-blues-jazz axis of music.
It’s not as if I was actively avoiding it, its more that there is only so much time in the day and probably something to do with comfort zones too, if I’m honest. And whilst I enjoy doing my homework to fill in the musical gaps via revolutionary protest funk, slick west-coast jazz-rockers and incendiary and intricate electric blues slingers, it is in the quieter and more considered moments that I often find the greatest pleasures. It is why Marie Dahlstrom’s new e.p. has been a constant soundtrack for a while now.
I really wanted to like The Band Called Oh (N) album more. Everything about it on paper ticks many of my personal creative boxes.
An album built around the concept of Guerrilla Gardening, a movement that sought to improve the urban decay of 60’s New York is certainly a brave and fascinating idea. One which weaves politics and ecology with form-shifting progressive pop, chimes with the distant echoes of soul music’s revolutionary battlecry and explores forward thinking “music as art” potential.
If I was going to sum this album up in one word it would be “smooth.”
If I was pushed to expand on that, I’d probably go for “damn smooth!”
Okay, you are going to need more than that but smooth is certainly the watch word here and when you then realise that the band name is an acronym for “So West Coast” then it all makes sense. The west coast in question being that of sun kissed California and the vibe being so laid back that the band are virtually horizontal.
The album does take a bit of finding, especially if you want to dip your toes in its sonic waters before deciding whether you are going to commit to a purchase, in fact, it seems to have a subdued on line presence on par with that normally reserved for winners of The Voice!
However, once you do track it down, you are in for a real treat.
Snoh Aalegra, however, is proof, if proof were needed, that the cooler Scandinavian climes and the rain-soaked London streets can also influence music in a positive way.
Funk and soul music has always been a genre known for carrying a message, one which if not always overtly political can often be termed social commentary. Its roots in the race struggles of 60’s American led artists such as Marvin Gaye, Cutis Mayfield and Sly and The Family Stone to become narrators of those troubled times and that relationship between the politics and the music remains ingrained.
The Nils Landgren Funk Unit sideman’s fifth album has plenty to say about what we are doing to the planet and what we are doing to each other but does so in a way that exudes hope for the future, brims with optimism and never preaches. No soapboxes where harmed in the making of this record.
No soapboxes where harmed in the making of this record.
When you have spent the last twenty years building a solid reputation as a composer, arranger, orchestrator, and producer on a multitude of successful records, TV themes and multimedia scores, there is only one logical thing to do next. Release your own debut solo album.
And that is exactly what Walkin’ On Air is, a chance for the Finnish creator Tomi Malm to work without any brief, restrictions or considerations and the result is a glorious collection of songs that range from elegant jazz-infused pop grooves, smokey funk boogies, emotive and soaring ballads and a host of creative genre fusions.
If you chose a band name like D/troit and then call your album Soul Sound System, you leave casual browsers in no doubt about your musical mission statement. And why not, this album is an unashamed celebration of the Motor City soul scene and comes from none less than the recent best band winners at the Scandinavian Soul Music Awards.
Hanouneh is a band with a good memory and on Hometown Prophecies they show what a sonically potent thing this can be.
They draw from a very distinct lineage of modern black music performance but the clever thing is that they are happy to revere and reinvent rather than merely remix it. This meandering path sees them connect dots between jazz traditions, future soul grooves, the chilled end of Minneapolis funk, and the ghosts of old blues players and modern R&B.