Cannonball Adderley ‘Big Man’ CD (Next Gone/Concord) 4/5

cannonball-adderleyLike any major jazz musician, alto saxophonist Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley went through various stylistic phases in his illustrious career and this last ever album was in fact recorded before his premature death in 1975, but released posthumously, and it captures him an altogether different mood from the progressive hard bop and soul jazz merchant of his early years. Instead, what we have here is a vaster orchestral conception, with the notable arrangements of David Axelrod, and this is more akin in parts to a film soundtrack, not necessarily a blaxploitation movie, but with cinematic orchestrations nonetheless.
Originally a double vinyl LP, the album features some of Cannonball’s favourite musicians of the period which means George Duke (under a pseudonym for contractual reasons) on keyboards, Airto Moreira on drums and percussion, and quite possibly most interesting of all the debut recording of a then twenty-one year old vocalist, Randy Crawford as well as former Count Basie lead vocalist Joe Williams among various others. Her links with the jazz world would remain intact and a collaboration with the Crusaders would catapult her to stardom. That was all four years away. Taken as a whole, the recording is a unique opus in the Adderley canon (no pun intended) in that it is influenced by the works of Gershwin (‘Porgy and Bess’) and Ellington and is conceived of as a continuous suite that explores in-depth the African-American condition and includes segments of both spoken and vocal words and only brief soloing from instrumentalists. This may alienate some who prefer lengthy soloing from the leader in particular, but Cannonball Adderley had simply moved on as a musician and human being.

If one can overcome these caveats, then there is still a good deal to enjoy and it does require repeated listens to fully appreciate the work and effort that both Adderley and Axelrod have collectively invested into the work. Funky bass line and strings combine effectively on ‘Anybody needs a big man’, with subtle keyboards from Duke and vocals courtesy of Joe Williams. The two had previously performed together on a live recording that Cannonball actively participated on and clearly there is a natural empathy between them here. Randy Crawford’s voice is immediately recognisable and takes centre stage on ‘Gonna give love a try’ with minor chord keyboards and strings, and some lovely jazz tones are added by Don Menza on flute. The nearest the music gets to 1970s funk-tinged jazz is on the Blackbyrds sounding, ‘Hundred an’ one year’, where Cannonball finally extends on all too brief solo. Gospel and jazz emerge hand in hand on ‘Grind your own coffee’, with accompaniment from George Duke on electric piano, while the influence of Axelrod is prominent on ‘Next year in Jerusalem’ with Joe Williams in fine form on lead vocals. The narration in between numbers does take some getting used to it has to be stated Not everything is essential and ‘The broomstick song’ could have been dispensed with. However, this is an ambitious and creative last work from Cannonball Adderley, and it leaves one wondering what he might have come up with next. Perhaps, a return collaboration with Miles Davis might have beckoned in the early/mid 1980s. We shall never know the answer to that and many other questions, but what does remain fully intact is the immeasurable contribution that Cannonball has made to the evolution of jazz in key recordings, and in the process making our lives just that little bit happier. This final piece makes its own valuable contribution to that immense body of work.

Tim Stenhouse

Richard Marks ‘Never Satisfied, The Complete Works: 1968-1983’ (Now-Again Records) 4/5

richard-marksNever Satisfied – The Complete Works 1968-1983 on Now Again Records is a 21 track compilation of known 7” singles by Atlanta based Guitarist Richard Marks who passed away in the Mid 2000’s, As a musician Richard was part of The Tommy Stewart band and played on many of his sought after tracks including the legendary self titled Tommy Stewart LP which contained the club classic Bump & Hustle Music (not wanting to brag but I found my copy of this LP in a second hand record shop in Wolverhampton in their £1.00 box – no wonder the shop did not stay open for to long) – It is basically a CD of three sections – the first part being his Funk period,then his more uptempo (Northern) Soul period and finally his slower Southern Soul material.
The CD kicks off with “Funky Things” a really good organ lead instrumental with a really nice break beat at the start of the track,next up is “Boom Boom” an uptempo tune with a nice saxophone lead one for the Mods). Track 3 is his classic sought after Funk single “Funky Four Corners” vocal version a track that sounds as if it came off a Dyke & The Blazers album followed by the Guitar led Instrumental version – as a 7” single you would be expecting to pay up to £80 to own an original copy. The heavy Funk of “Crackerjack” follows next – a highly collectable single which asks the listener to do the latest dance craze of the same name – as release “Crackerjack” was released with the next item which is a real James Brown slice of funk entitled “I’m The Man For You” – a mere £800 is what this double dancer would set you back.

The JB’s Funk thang continues on the CD with it’s title track “Never Satisfied” another one of Richards real sought after 7’s which has fetched a whopping £1500 in auction though this may well be because of the next track on the CD which was again the flip side on the single but in this case a more soulful northern dancer entitled “Did You Ever Lose Something” highlighting a different side to his voice than the first 7 tracks on the release. Track 9 “You Ain’t No Good” is an Atlantic sounding funky groove which reminds me a lot of what Sam & Dave were recording in the late 1960’s.

Finally the pace of the CD slows down on the next track with “Why Did You Leave Me” which sounds a lot like the type of material Charles Bradley has been recording lately though the whole feel of the track is ruined for me by the most irritating female backing vocal.

The next two tracks will certainly not garner Richard Marks any new fans and were probably released together as an A & B Side – “Mr Santa Claus (Santa Claus Helping Hands)” a bluesy type Xmas song & “Home For The Holidays (Mother’s Wish For Christmas” a slightly more uptempo track do exactly what it says on the box – Christmas Humbug – let’s move on
“Don’t Take It Out On Me” & “Love Is Gone” were released as a single together on Shout records and both have that great beating rhythm that has made the release a sought after Northern single – These are then followed by a real Richard Marks soul rarity “Ups & Downs” which got its original release on Note records though to my mind can only be worth the £500 it fetches for its scarcity value as it really is just an average slow southern soul track.

The CD continues with the Southern Soul feel for the next two tracks “Living My Life (Day To Day) & “Speak Now” which although must have been released as singles would really have been LP fillers had Richard ever got round to releasing said album. Track 18 is a real oddity and also his most expensive single to try to pick up – it’s title “Purple Haze” and yes I was expecting another version of the Jimi Hendrix classic but instead it is a sub standard slice of Funkadelic like psychedelica with plenty of heavy guitar – definitely not one for the soul boys but somehow as managed to make somebody fork out £2000 on original 7” single.

Now we do get a nice piece of soul with a good Bobby Womack feel to it “Innocent Bystander” was released in 1976 and if you want an original start saving because it has fetched up to £600. “Pretty Woman” is another nice midtempo guitar led tune though not one that would make you rush for the dance floor – which finally brings us to the final track on the CD “I’m With You Love” a lovely midtempo modern soul groover which gives real feel good factor for the end of the compilation
All in all plenty of great collectable tracks whether you be a Funkateer/a Northern Soul fan or into your more deep Southern Soul but I just feel that the whole balance of the CD is wrong by putting the releases of these genres together one after another so if you are just after the funk you are probably only going to listen to the start of the album and the same with the other genres.

As a CD Compilation 3 out of 5 due to track layout
As a collection of great collectable releases by Richard Marks 4 out of 5

Stephen Ward

Totó La Momposina y sus Tambores ‘Tambolero’ CD/Dig (Real World) 4/5

totó-la-momposinaColombian roots music receives scant treatment among international distributors. There is a ready-made market in salsa which the Colombian diaspora around the globe laps up with aplomb and in recent years it has been left to the likes of Soundway, Vampi Soul and World Circuit most notably to re-package and explore the vast heritage of cumbia which is the form of roots music most associated with the country. However, Colombia, by virtue of its numerous borders and geographical location on both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, offers myriad musical delights and only a few labels have sought to examine in any real depth the relationship between indigenous African, Indian and Spanish cultures. One artist who was initially largely neglected by her own national audience, but in recent decades has enjoyed more widespread interest as a direct result of her popularity outside the country is singer Totó La Momposina. Real World recorded her 1992 album, ‘La Candela Viva’, and some twenty-three years later, the singer has returned to this very same repertoire to recreate the music with an eye to contributing to the Real World records’ Gold series and a fine effort it is too.

This is Colombian music in its most undiluted form and it will take a few listens to adapt to the sparse instrumental accompaniment which is percussive and, in some respects at least, the equivalent of Cuban rumba or Puerto Rican plena, with in the Colombian case the maintaining of a rapid temp throughout and the frequent use of collective vocals and hand claps. This is precisely what greets the listener on the pulsating opener, ‘Adios Fulana’.

Totó La Momposina began her lengthy career aged just eight in the 1940s and this was as part of her mother’s dance group. By the time of her first Womad appearance in the early 1990s, she was already something of a veteran and, not dissimilar to the late Cesaria Evora, she became something of a world roots legend later in life when scoring an international hit with ‘La candela Viva’ and two subsequent albums fared well also. Renewed interested followed in her native land when her music was finally and belatedly recognised as worthy in its own right and this re-creation of her most canonised work is a timely reminder of what the singer is fully capable of.

Tim Stenhouse

Joi ‘Joi Sound System’ 2CD/Dig (Real World) 3/5

joi-sound-systemIf the name Joi is unfamiliar to some, then they were part of the Asian underground dance scene that included musicians such as Nitin Sawhney and Talvin Singh. This retrospective covers the period 1999-2007 with the emphasis firmly on the electronica beats and from a strictly world roots perspective this offers a somewhat limited view of the cross-fertilisation between more traditional Indian sub-continent instrumentation. Indeed some of the music contained within is largely outside the parameters of world roots music altogether. A first underground hit was scored in 1997 with the single ‘A desert storm’ and this comes across as a meeting between Kraftwerk (surely an influence here) and mid-1980s hip-hop. The three albums from which these tracks are taken and showcased pretty much replicates the same formula.
Part of the problem overall is that the instrumentation used is somewhat repetitive in nature and the power of the electronic beats so pervasive that it makes it difficult for the listener to enjoy the vocals which is a shame since they are on occasion excellent. The fusion between genres works best on wordless female vocals numbers such as ‘Amar Kahani’ where sitar and table are prominent and the driving uptempo beat makes for a thrilling dance track that can be enjoyed by all. Fast-paced dub step is the order of the day on ‘Esy-Shj’ with the use of dubbed sitar an interesting development and maybe an avenue to explore further.
Arguably the most interesting piece of all is an explorative fusion of East and South East Asian beats in ‘Deep Asian Vibes’ with sitar and table sitting very comfortably indeed with strings that one might hear in Chinese classical and the melodicism of the groove. A whole album that examines the relationship between different regions within the continent of Asia would be a challenging, yet potentially rewarding project for a future album. In marked contrast, the repetitive table and beat loops on ‘Journey’, certainly creates a trance-like feel, but does it actually accomplish anything of substance? The use of flute redeems matters slightly, but still there is too much repetition for this writer.

Joi are a sound system collective and with over fifteen hundred concerts including prestigious festivals such as the Bug Chill, Glastonbury, and Womad, their live track record is impressive. However, in the studio in order to widen their appeal, they might be better served taking a leaf out of the Gotan Project approach and discover more of the roots of the which are no less worthy and may ultimately make for an even stronger dance music sound.

Tim Stenhouse

Wee Willie Walker ‘If Nothing Ever Changes’ (Little Village Foundation) 5/5

wee-willie-walkerIt’s been a cracking year for me so far for new soul releases, many of which have emanated from my beloved southern states. Well, the year just got a whole lot better because we have this magnificent singer back in the studio with a huge ensemble of musicians, there are some covers and some new tunes – all of which have those throaty lived-in black vocals that only surface once in a while. Of course he’s provided us with some stunning music over the years, the last new product I have from him dates from 2004 when he fronted the Butanes on the long player “Right where I belong”.
Straight then to “Read Between the Lines” the Clarke/Reid outing. We are transported back to the halcyon days of Stax/Atlantic and the quality never drops from this point on. Next up is a gospel tinged version of Lennon/McCartney’s “Help”, easily the best version I have heard, with Willie sharing lead vocals with Curtis Selgardo, who himself is a wonderful vocalist himself. “I been watching you” is a lovely down-tempo stroller which is held together with subtle funky guitar licks with horns a plenty – actually we have glorious horns all over this album. The ballad “Not that I care” is pure down-home unadulterated soul with country tinges. Then we come to the monster track on here, “I don’t remember loving you”, a mid-tempo chugging dancer of epic proportions, underpinned with cavernous percussion, Wurlitzer and a subtle ‘chacking’ guitar. Willie’s vocals are on top of the mix, riding the session out, four and a half minutes of sheer heaven. This track has made me feel so good and my ‘track of the year’ so far. Both “What love can do” and “If nothing ever changed” are down-tempo ballads with real quality, real songs that suck you in. The rest of the album is made up of great songs which all have depth and substance, the list of musicians is endless and the sound they have created really is a tribute to the real deal all of which suits Willie’s vocal perfectly.

Brian Goucher

Roy Ayers ‘Searching for Sunshine 1973-1980’ 2CD (Raven) 5/5

roy-ayersAustralian revival specialists Raven come up with yet another winner on this excellent triple helping of Roy Ayers’ vintage period, and as an extremely generous bonus, adds another eight bonus tracks that amounts to a mini ‘Best of’. The first CD kicks off with a terrific and very different interpretation of Sam Cooke’s classic ‘You send me’. However, whereas the original was a gospel-tinged affair albeit with secular lyrics, the elongated mid-1970s reading from Ayers is in a relaxed Latin Jazz groove with gorgeous female lead vocals that sound a tad like Deniece Williams, with Roy doubling up on lead vocals. This also served as the title track of an album recorded at Philly International’s home of Sigma studios. A terrific dance number follows on in ‘Can’t you see me’ and this is the full length version and a percussive masterpiece at that with electric piano vamp and vibes solo. Disco and jazz never sounded so good when juxtaposed within a single song. Funk-tinged bass and strings lend something of a classy disco feel to ‘Get on up, get on down’, but Roy Ayers was always on the margins of mainstream dance music. His jazz credentials are underlined on the gentle slow jam, ‘I wanna touch you baby’, with joint lead vocals once again working a treat. Fast forward two years in time to 1978 and ‘Fever’ was released when disco was at his height, but what is of interest here is that the album, unlike its predecessors, was not packed with hit singles, and therefore (re)discovering the project reveals some lovely lesser known material. These include the looked over gem, ‘I wanna feel it (I wanna dance)’ which might sound like a title more becoming of mid-1980s Whitney Houston, but in the very capable hands of Ayers becomes a trademark piece complete with minor chords and thunderous bass. The title track is another re-reading of a standard and in this case the song that Peggy Lee immortalised way back in the 1950s. Here Ayers marks his own distinctive imprint with clipped rhythm guitar and strings that update the evergreen tune. An original, ‘Love will bring us back together has become a firm favourite on the UK soul/funk revival scene and for a left-field number to end the album, the mid-tempo and brassy ‘If you love me’ is a minor gem. The second CD focuses on the final album Roy Ayers recorded in the 1970s, ‘No stranger to love’ from 1979 and this features the minor club hit, ‘Don’t stop the feeling’, and a fine re-working of Bobby Caldwell’s blue-eyed soul number, ‘What you won’t do for love’. Of the bonuses, some stand out as definitive examples of the Ayers sound and the stunning’ Love from the sun’ from 1973 is probably this writer’s favourite, though one could make an equally compelling case for ‘Searching’ while’ ‘Everybody loves the sunshine’ is right up there with the Isley Brothers’ ‘Summer breeze’ for anthemic ode to the summer months.

Tim Stenhouse

The Rongetz Foundation ‘Kiss Kiss Double Jab’ (Heavenly Sweetness) 4/5

the-rongetz-foundation‘Kiss Kiss Double Jab’ is the latest creation from New York based ‘Rongetz Foundation’ formed and driven by Stephane Ronget, a French trumpeter and Producer. Ronget has had various successful crossover bands previously, and with the Rongetz Foundation has strived for a live sound whilst combining Jazz, hip-hop and soul. He achieves this by collaborating with various artists, for example, his last album ‘Brooklyn butterfly sessions’ saw him collaborate with Gregory Porter. For his newest release ‘Kiss Kiss Double bang’ he teams up with big-league jazzers, saxophonist Garry Bartz, and trombonist Steve Turre. The result is a vibrant and stylish blend of sounds incorporating a host of memorable licks, eclectic rhythms, and vocals that ooze with charisma, courtesy of the charismatic ‘Lilli Cooper’ who was ‘discovered’ whilst singing in Broadway.
The album kicks off with the first track, ‘Hip Hop Muse.’ The slow, yet heavy attack that Luques Curtis applies on the double bass initiates a cool kind of swagger that continues throughout the rest of the album. In fact, every musician on the record seems to be in the same mindset, hell bent on delivering a consistent stream of sleek and sassy attitude from start to finish. This tune shows a teaming up of vocals and sax, with Cooper and Bartz playing the main melody in unison. This reinforcement of the main tune makes it very catchy, and is guaranteed to be playing in your head hours after listening to it.
The title track ‘Kiss Kiss Double Jab’ shows Bartz delivering another killer horn line which contrast with Frank Locrasto’s subtle keys perfectly. This is a song about the revenge of a woman scorned, well expressed with Cooper’s passive aggressive vocals, all the while restrained beautifully with the cool, laid-back groove from Locrasto.
Poet, Sonia Sanchez, features on a few of the tracks, with mainly spoken word. ‘Where are you this morning Jazz?’ is one of these tracks and also features Monnette Sudler on guitar, in what feels like a duet between her and Sanchez.
‘Cab Samba’ starts off with a Brazilian style percussive solo which sets the tone for the rhythm section, whilst the horns and the vocals team up in unison again, in what is perhaps the main track that Lilli Cooper’s roots in Broadway are more apparent. What I found fascinating throughout the album with the two vocalists, is that there is over a fifty year age gap between them, yet they both have this chic and sassy presence they bring to the music. I love it!
This is a brilliant and sophisticated album that should attract Jazz lovers of all different tastes. It has elements of the traditional and the contemporary. Nice one Ronget!

Lindsey Evans

Bilal ‘Another Life’ (Purpose Music Group) 3/5

bilalPhilly born and New York resident Bilal has a career now spanning over 15 years. Always on the slight left of the R&B and soul world, Bilal in recent years has managed to remain relevant unlike many of his contemporaries, including working on numerous interesting and varied collaborations from Robert Glasper to Otis Brown III and Slum Village to Kendrick Lamar, with his distinctive falsetto voice adding an old school character and a touch of vintage to many of these projects.
His new album Another Life is his first to be created using a single producer, namely Adrian Younge, a LA based musician, DJ and producer who has become known to craft albums using traditional live instrumentation and by recording to tape rather than utilising modern studio recording technology. This approach helps capture the classic soul/funk aesthetic of the late 1960s and early 70s period of which Younge’s productions have now become synonymous.
The album utilises acoustic drums, electric bass, guitar and either piano, organ or electric piano for the keyboard parts. ‘Star now’ even makes use of a Mellotron, a Birmingham (England) built electronic keyboard manufactured from 1963–1970, where each key controls the playback of a pre-recorded tape loop, mainly for string type sounds. Very old school and rarely used in soul music. The only electronic element heard on the album is from ‘Pleasure Toy’, which replaces live drums for Roland TR808 rhythms.

Luckily, there is not an overuse of guests unlike many modern soul/R&B records with only Kendrick Lamar, Kimbra and Big K.R.I.T. added. Rapper Big K.R.I.T. is an unnecessary addition, although, Kimbra, the soulful New Zealand based vocalist adds a smooth female touch to the project. Progressive West Coast MC Kendrick injects a verse on ‘Money over love’, but again I’m not convinced that the additional rap lyrics add much to this record.

Please note that the album has a short running length, with only two songs running over 3 and a half minutes and the entire album clocked at 38 minutes. Nonetheless, you don’t get bored and the dozen tracks are all well crafted, and there is always a sense of believability in Bilal’s delivery and lyrical quality, with highlights including ‘I don’t really care’, ‘Holding it back’ and ‘Satellites’.

But the album isn’t perfect, and although Adrian Younge is a decent musician, he tends to play all instrument parts himself which does lead to a sense of familiarity with some of his musical ideas. Plus, there are better musicians out there and the use of other players would have offered a different perspective to Younge’s ideas. And the role of the producer is about is making critical decisions like this for the better of the album.

Another Life, Bilal’s fifth album won’t produce a hit single as it isn’t that type of record – which a shame. Bilal will probably forever be the underground soul singer who makes really cool records rather than commercially successful ones. His diverse catalogue, blending of genres and willingness to take musical risks has to be applauded, and in that respect Bilal is in ways similar to D’Angelo.

But if Bilal began to tour more outside of the US and with a band he could flourish on the live circuit. Luckily this summer Bilal is touring Europe, including a rare UK date in London on 21st July 2015. But maybe Bilal is destined to be the underdog, and we all love the underdog.

Damian Wilkes

Mtume ‘Kiss This World Goodbye’/’In Search of the Rainbow Seekers’ 2CD (SoulMusic) 4/5

mtumeJames Mtume is best known for his smash 1983 hit ‘Juicy Fruit’, but there is a good deal more to his impressive portfolio and this excellent two CD set fills in the gaps in the period 1978-1980, immediately prior to major commercial success. Mtume (Swahili word for ‘messenger’) is in fact the son of legendary jazz tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath and fellow musicians Albert and Percy of MJQ fame) count among his uncles. A career as a jazz percussionist beckoned for Mtume in the early 1970s and he recorded as a sideman for no less than McCoy Tyner on ‘Song for my lady’ (1973) and ‘Sama Layuca’ (1974). A first sign of future success came with forming of a long musical partnership in 1972 with Reggie Lucas. The pair would co-write ‘The closer I get to you’ which was in unfinished form when Roberta Flack first heard it and transformed the song into major hit with the vocals of Donnie Hathaway being added in Chicago. A 1977 album on the independent jazz label Strata East, Mtume ‘Rebirth Cycle’, was an indication that Mtume was never likely to take a conventional route, but a year later his first soul/funk offering, ‘Kiss this world goodbye’ came out on Epic records, a result of the successful songwriting effort with Roberta Flack. In truth it is a mixed affair, containing looser elements, some of which work and some of which do not. A first attempt at funk revealed an interest in Parliament and Bootsy Collins, but numbers such as ‘Just Funnin’ sound a little dated while the rock-tinged guitar on ‘Day of the Reggin’ is simply no longer relevant. That said, a key part of the Mtume jigsaw was about to be showcased on the quality slow jam ‘Closer to the end’ with vocals by a then relatively unknown Tawatha Agee. She would become an integral part of the Mtume sound and another fine ballad, ‘This is your world’, featured Agee and Mtume on joint lead vocals. A reprise of ‘The closer I get to you’ is an interesting alternative take, but not a patch on the Flack/Hathaway classic. Wordless jazz-funk abounds on ‘Love Lock’ with wah-wah guitar and various sound effects. If this first album on a mainstream label was a testing ground, then Mtume had learnt some important lessons by album number two. The group was now in place that would conquer the soul world three years later, but what was now required was a hit single. A riposte came in the driving ‘Give it on up (if you want to)’ which had a genuine sense of urgency and a driving beat and a late disco classic for sure. Mtume and Lucas had in fact tested the commercial ground even before this second album by producing both Stephanie Mills and Phyllis Hyman, the latter with a modern soul boy anthem, ‘You know how to love me’. This experience was redirected into the group effort and a second single was released, ‘Do you wanna be a star’ and now sounds a terrific uptempo synth-infused groove that has weathered the storms of time remarkably well.

Once again quality ballads emerged and probably the pick of the bunch was ‘We’re gonna make it this time’ with Agee’s lead being supported by some glorious female background vocals. The title track with keyboardist Hubert Eaves influential on synth bass, a sound he would perfect with D-Train, found Mtume on new commercial territory and one that would ultimately lead to ‘Juicy Fruit’. Excellent inner sleeves notes from soul aficionado David Nathan, who is a personal friend of James Mtume, shed useful biographical light on his career. A very worthy re-issue and hard to find in their original vinyl formats.

Tim Stenhouse

Pete Rock ‘Petestrumentals 2’ (Mello Music Group) 4/5

pete-rockThe hip-hop scene in 2015 is in a weird place. There are many very successful artists, more so than any time in its history and the genre is now ubiquitous, yet the quality of its musical output has been extremely variable over recent years.
Nonetheless, almost every artistic movement has what is known as a ‘Golden Era’, with late 1980s and 90s hip-hop commonly referred to as its creative apex, but with hip-hop now over 40 years old, the conflict between the old and new has never been greater.
Pete Rock’s name will always be associated with this Golden Era, with his two classic 90s albums with C.L. Smooth and later solo material very much an essential component of any hip hop fan’s record collection. But post millennium Pete Rock has not been very prolific. Pete’s last solo record was in 2008 with NY’s Finest, so where does the veteran producer fit in today’s modern hip-hop era?
PeteStrumentals 2 is a follow up to the acclaimed PeteStrumentals album released on the BBE label in 2001. This set is another collection of instrumentals, consisting of 20 cuts mainly lasting between two or three minutes, with only one track having a running time of over four minutes. All tracks are thankfully sample based, with Pete still finding exceptional sample material from his vast record collection, which are then programmed, edited and arranged within his Akai MPC, the hip-hop sampling machine of choice. The arrangements and structures do seem less songs-like in there own right, in that they appear more suited for MCs to rhyme over, unlike the original PeteStrumentals album where you could easily place the tracks within a DJ set.

Due to the nature of contemporary hip-hop, sonically Pete’s sample choices have developed into greater use of short guitar sample chops with some additional use of horns, but less use of jazzy Fender Rhodes, piano and harp. Thus, generally this album is slightly less soulful and jazzy than his most famous material, with many hip-hop producers now creating less soulful music to fit into the current aesthetic of the genre. But Pete maintains an organic quality with his productions, especially in an age where sampling has become less common due to legal issues and the high cost of using copyrightable material.

Album highlights include ‘I wish’, with its infectious Rose Royce vocal edit, ‘Accelerate’ which is based around a bouncy Clavinet groove and the hypnotic Fatback Band sampling ‘BB Jones’. This is essentially an album that you can leave to play in its entirety, although, there isn’t an obvious stand out track from the set, but all are of high quality.

So returning to the earlier question regarding where does Pete Rock fit in a post Kanye hip-hop universe? Thankfully, Pete Rock has stayed close to his roots here and not deviated into areas we would usually not associate with his music or tried to ‘update’ his sound unlike some seasoned producers – with usually disastrous results.

So there will always be a need for Pete Rock, and although this album will never have the same impact of Mecca and the Soul Brother (1992) or The Main Ingredient (1994), it will continue to showcase his legacy as one of the most important hip-hop producers in its 40-year history. I just want Pete Rock to be more prolific and showcase this.

Damian Wilkes