. issue XIX : vii .

by barathron

. artist : the souljazz orchestra .
. album : solidarity .
. year : 2012 .
. label : strut .
. grade : a plus .


Now in their tenth year together, Ottawa’s Souljazz Orchestra’s fifth full-length cements them as one of the finest Afro-Latin-Caribbean ensembles anywhere in the world. Their Rising Sun album was one of my favorites of 2010 – believe it or not, this one is even better. Souljazz’s earliest recordings emphasized their take on Afrobeat; since then, the band’s musical horizons have continuously expanded. On this album, not only do you get Afrobeat (“Bibinay” and “Serve & Protect”) – there’s roots reggae (“Jericho,” “Kingpin”), a Latin salsa-funk hybrid in the manner of Grupo Fantasma (“Ya Basta”), a swinging Carlinhos Brown-influenced Brazilian track (“Cartão Postal”), a fabulous Budos Band soundalike (“Conquering Lion”), and even some French Caribbean biguine (“Tanbou Lou”). Capping it all off are two covers of Senegal’s remarkable Orchestra Baobab: their salsa Senegalaise classic “Nijaay” and “Keten Ati Leen,” a unique Baobab take on Afro-funk that’s one of the most remarkable songs in that legendary band’s catalog. The vintage instruments and low-fi, pleasantly overdriven recording are an homage to the 1970’s, but make no mistake – this band is anchored in the present and is making some of 2012’s very finest music.

by Bill Lupoletti