Nigerian musician Orlando Julius first came to international attention back in 2000 with a sumptuous on Strut re-issue of his ‘Super Afro Soul’ album plus bonus tracks which revealed an artist who was listening to the then contemporary sounds of James Brown as well as forging a new modern style of his native country’s music. It is certainly the case that Fela Kuti owes Julius a debt of gratitude in creating what has now come to be termed Afro Beat.
Fast forward several decades and in the last fifteen years saxophonist, singer and composer Julius has enjoyed something of a renaissance with a 2003 album ‘Orlando’s Afro Ideas’ and more recently Orlando Julius and his Afro Sounders recording ‘Voodoo Funk’. Enter British based band the Heliocentrics who have become something of a house band for the Strut label and in particular have backed Ethio-Jazz star Mulatu Astatke on some excellent albums in recent times. For this latest project the idea was to include a mixture of reworkings of older material taken from the formative period in Julius’ career with some newer compositions and this works by and large extremely well indeed and crucially has an authentic feel throughout. A key number is ‘Love thy neighbour’ with a stunning intro and this unquestionably hits the spot with some the funkiest licks on the entire album. Fans of the classic Afro Beat style will be delighted at ‘Be Counted’ while there are even shades of James Brown’s soul on the intoxicating ‘Buju Buju’ where the instrumental prowess of the band on keyboards is displayed to full effect before the leader himself sets off on an extended solo. The title track incidentally is noteworthy for its interesting lyrics that allude to the boyhood musical exploits of Julius. A UK tour is likely in 2015 and this writer for one is looking forward immensely to hearing this band in a live context.