Mbilia Bel ‘Belissimo’ Stern’s Africa

Follow up to 2001’s ‘Welcome’ and marking her return to Sterns this is delightful. It’s over 25 years since she first hit the scene , in the mid 80’s came the classic duets with Tabu Ley, here she duets with Kandia Kouyate on my favourite track ‘Droit a l’amour’ . This is an African diva in her element with her distinctive vocals at their best when set against some flowing guitar licks from Souzy Kasseya who also wrote a lot of the material. Graham Radley

Donna Ivone Lara ‘Sempre a Cantar’

Now 82, she has been writing carnival sambas for 60 years but only started recording in 1978 (this is only her eighth release). Considered to be the first female samba composer and as such a big part of the whole culture and history of the genre especially on the afro-samba side of things. Things started off when she moved to Mangueira in the 1940’s and met some samba musicians going on to join Império Serrano samba school and writing sambas especially for carnival parades. Living history as fresh as ever.

Graham Radley

Ray Mantilla & The New Space Station ‘Man-Ti-Ya’ Savant

SCD2060 (available from HarmoniaMundi 02087099500)

Tasty Latin jazz from the New York percussionist in the tradition of Machito and Tito Puente. This is a touring seven piece band that is as tight as the proverbial and captured spot on by Cedar Walton’s production, lining up are Willie Williams on saxes, Enrique Fernandez on baritone sax and flute, Guido Gonzalez on trumpet, Edy Martinez on piano, Cucho Martinez on bass and Bill Elder on drums. These guys have it in their blood. Very good. Graham Radley

Terry Callier ‘Total Recall’ (Mr. Bongo)

New release here featuring eleven reworkings of Terry’s classic compositions together with a DVD video track of ‘You’re gonna miss your candy man’.
In the mix on this release you will find Block 16, Hopper, Zero 7, 4 Hero and Mitchell & Dewbury, adding a leftfield slant on what can only be described as music’s father voice. Difficult to compare this with his originals, better to take it at face value as a great nu jazz sound – progressive for perhaps an uninitiated Callier audience.
You need to approach this with a clear mind, if in doing so you are disappointed, then perhaps you should think long and hard about your own state of mind.
Terry Callier is a true genius and to take his music off to another dimension with some of the best producers around, can only provide the listener with evermore appreciation of his status within the pages of jazz.

Steve Williams

V/A ‘A Night Out In London’ Compiled by Nik Weston (Aosis)

Okay, a little hard this one to be objective about, what with Nik’s input on the site, but here goes… critical reviewing.
The thirteen-track compilation opens with a beautiful jazz number from Res with Coltrane/Modal flavours. eloquent nu jazz nugget.
Hey, just thought – night out in London on Japanese release only – not much chance then of hearing it in London… Ironic! Moving on, we find samba beats on Pamela Driggs’ ‘Leicoa’, almost the best thing on this disc, which is truly representative of the many genres of music you would find in the smoke. Opas sound on Yukoh Kusunoki’s ‘After The Dance’ – revival almost, a little passé (to mention Michael McDonald here would be a little too critical), Maysa Leak features on Jazoulsters’ first of three offerings here, ‘Family Affair’ (yes that one) is given a proper reworking – nice one Maysa.
Paris Match next up with a George Benson sound – we don’t like. however, Osamu Kaike’s rendition of ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’ is without a shadow of doubt the best thing here – proper jazz all the way, and even giving Ms. Lundy’s version a run for its money. worth the search, worth the money, worth the effort alone.
we then move through jazz dance meets Jeff Lorber on ‘Shi Wa Zu’, descarga madness on ‘Descarga Pa’Ti’ and true London sounds on ‘Speed Of Love’ scats included free of charge. the cd is in full throttle. up next two more Jazoulster. first ‘Landscape from the Higher Lounge’ – not sure if the title wins first prize or the awesome sax blowing. me no like third Jazoulster track, but nuff praise to Paris Match’s second offering ‘Deep Inside’ with Ananda Project on the mix.
all in all there are some dated sounds I will admit, but 10 out of 13 is some achievement when it comes to the quality here.

Steve Williams

Lonesome Echo Production ‘Silver Ocean’ (Disorient)

Eagerly awaited this one (if only by me!). the album kicks off with the recently released ex-Ten City front man Byron Stingley 12″ ‘sweet dreams’ – funky fresh, instantly you appreciate this album is representing the better side of house music, although that pigeon-hole is not fit for all the tracks. portuguese flamboyance comes correct on the next offering from ex Da Lata songstress Liliana Chachian by way of ‘no colo do mar’ giving house music a heavy slapping of brasil and removes any likelihood of this compilation being filed under ‘lounge’… tremendous.

Ken Boothe & U-Roy together concocts images of splendor – it is challenging music, but with artists like Pharoah Sanders, Lonnie Liston Smith and Nana Vasconcelos all getting it on, I’m afraid the Boothe/Roy combination gets clouded. Pharoah’s ‘love’ with Apani, DJ Spinna and Mr Smith himself gets the big rubber stamp of approval form the ukvibe consortium – hip hop beats rule.

big anthem here has to be ‘soul galactic’ featuring Osunlade – watch out for this at the forthcoming southport weekender… hot stuff; hope indeed this sees a 12″ or even better a 7″ release, as it truly is an opportunity Disorient needs not to miss.

those of you familiar with On-U-Sound records and the whole Adrian Sherwood mayhem back in the day, will just adore ‘spirit of drums’ featuring Mutabaruka – an instantaneous magical moment.

if you are into your soulful house or even nu jazz this album is a must…. do not be hunting this down next year when it has all but disappeared. TUFF MUSIC. big up Disorient, big up.SW

…p.s. you can find a new Mutabaruka 7″ from Un-U-Sound called ‘What Is The Plan?’ with the legendary African Head Charge who, back in 1990, were responsible for blowing up two pairs of speakers at my home, whilst playing the ‘Songs Of Praise’ album.

Steve Williams

Esbjörn Svensson Trio ‘Seven Days Of Falling’ (ACT)

Frantic as I seemed on discovering this album, I quickly delved for my wallet, foolishly without listening to any of the tracks. Impressed as I was with their ‘From Gagarin’s Point Of View’ album from 1999 i was drawn very easily into this purchase only to be very disappointed – as overwhelmed as i had been previously I was equally deflated this time around.
With the accolade of ‘BBC jazz award winner’ and encouraging reviews of late, especially from Jazzwise Magazine’s Alyn Shipton, it surprises me some what that this does very little for me.
As an outside possibility I suggest you listen to “did they ever tell Consteau?” before making your own decision, but if you want good advise, then the previous album is an outright winner.

Steve Williams

Rhian Benson ‘Gold Coast’ (DKG)

Excellent contemporary voice combined with soulful and jazzy arrangements, make for this marvelous album. It would be only too obvious to compare the style of Rhian’s voice to that of Tracey Thorn’s, but that similarity gets a good kicking when the music opens up. For this is a true gem of an album, and one that will inevitably get overlooked by both the soul fraternity and the jazz one alike.
Do us a favour, go and seek this out and have a listen, check out her photos if you must because this is one beautiful lady that can sing, and that doesn’t happen too often.
Extra special moments are ‘I’m In a Bind’ and the title track ‘Gold Sky’, which will be one of those songs you will all be searching for when you can’t get it. Trust me on that one!

Steve Williams

The Rough Guide To The Music Of Morocco

We start with the brilliant Nass Marrakech and their global take on gnawa (look out for them on UK tour in the spring – not to be missed) who are followed by one of Morocco’s biggest stars, Jil Jilala. The Rough Guide takes us from the traditional gnawa and melhoun to some more contemporary influences all of which have helped to shape the varied culture of this exciting land. Further artists featured include, Nass El Ghiwane, Najm El Farah Essafi, Bnet Marrakech and Mustapha Bourgogne, 71minutes of music that will take you from mellow to full on hedonism, from chilled to party. Brilliant.

Graham Radley

Astral Travelling Since 1993