Soul Jazz Orchestra ‘Solidarity’ (Strut) 4/5

Following on from the excellent 2010 release ‘Rising sun’, the Soul Jazz Orchestra have returned with a sumptuous effort that is, if anything, even more eclectic in approach than before with a fine balance of styles that will appeal to a broad audience from dance devotees to world music enthusiasts. An Afro-Latin flavour permeates ‘Ya basta’ which could easily have come off an Etoile de Dakar or No.1 album from Senegal in the mid-1970s while Afro-Brazilian bloc percussion is a predominant feature of ‘Cartao’ which is a slow burner of a tune with lead and chanted ensemble vocals. Afrobeat is the order of the day on ‘Swe and protect’ which takes a leaf out of Antibalas’ take on the Fela sound. Previously the band was happy to cover acid jazz and retro soul terrain, but now the Soul Jaz Orchestra are more confident in their own ablities, a distinctive sound is emerging, yet one that is varied at the same time. There is even some respectable roots reggae thrown in for good measure on ‘Jericho’ with gorgeous dubbed horns that Yabby You would have bene proud of and the themed ‘Kingpin’. The lead vocals of Senegalese musician El Hadji M’Baye add a real touch of authenticity to proceedings as does the great cover which is right out of the ‘authenticity’ period of West and Central African music from the 1970s captures the mood on the album to perfection. Tim Stenhouse

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