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Foreign Affair
Foreign Affair
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £11.94

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inventive, dynamic, exotic and fresh., 27 Sep 2011
This review is from: Foreign Affair (Audio CD)
Over 35 years into one of contemporary jazz fusion's most extraordinary evolving musical journeys, Spyro Gyra entered the 2010s where they began -- on their own indie label, Amherst Records, on which they released their self-titled debut in 1978.
Driven by the melodic, jazzy, and increasingly global-minded vision of saxophonist and founder Jay Beckenstein, Spyro Gyra have undergone various personnel changes throughout the years while becoming serial world travelers.
The concept of "A Foreign Affair" began with Beckenstein asking his crew -- Tom Schuman, Julio Fernandez, Scott Ambush, and Bonny B. -- to come up with impressions of these adventures.
The results are dynamic, exotic, high-spirited, loaded with invention and improvisation, and even slightly spiritual in spots (the moody African-flavored "Khuda", featuring the dreamy, soaring vocals of young Indian singer Arijit Singh).
The ports of call on the group's stylistic itinerary develop distinctive personalities as they evolve.
They start with a relaxed and silky, sax-driven reggae sway on Beckenstein's "Caribe", then start dancing with Schuman's synth pans in fiery sync with the saxman's punchy lines on Bonny B.'s festive "Sweet Ole Thang".
The bubbling, super-percussive "Falling Walls" by Fernandez is harder to place geographically but is reflective of the trademark adventurous Spyro Gyra sound of the 2000s.
Schuman's mystical "Shinjuku" touches on the whimsical side of Spyro Gyra's numerous trips to Japan, where they have long enjoyed great popularity.
There's also a graceful, lighthearted touch of Rio ("Samba for Two"), a balmy bossa romance ("Canção de Ninar"), and a return to the Caribbean via "Antigua".
Ambush's expansive closer, "Dancing on Table Mountain" allows the bandmembers to stretch and show the depth of their jazzy possibilities.
Between all the frequent flyer miles, two of the most interesting tracks are the beautiful, poignant vocal tracks by Keb' Mo' (the melancholy "Last Call") and Fernandez (the easy-rolling Latin-tinged cultural message song "Chileno Boys"). Over 30 recordings in, Spyro Gyra still had something fresh to say while fearlessly entering their fifth decade of recording. J. Widran

Prime Time
Prime Time
Price: £14.61

2.0 out of 5 stars Lightweight and formulaic background music., 11 July 2011
This review is from: Prime Time (Audio CD)
** and 1/2.
The American saxophonist Paul Taylor is primarily an instrumentalist, but ironically, the best tracks on his albums are usually the ones that feature vocalists -- and that holds true on "Prime Time", which is mostly an instrumental smooth jazz album but features R&B singers on occasion.
The vocal offerings include "Space" (which features singer Andrea Anderson-Olson) and "Can't Nobody", which features Jamie Jones of All-4-One fame; both are medium-tempo R&B of the urban contemporary variety. Taylor solos on both tunes, but the vocal performances make them the best tracks on this 2011 release.
Unfortunately, the instrumentals on "Prime Time" aren't nearly as substantial, which isn't surprising given Taylor's history.
Since the 1990s, the Denver native has been playing "safe sax" of the Kenny G/Dave Koz/Richard Elliot/George Howard variety; that approach has made him a favorite on smooth jazz stations, but for those who are interested in hearing more than just lightweight background music, that automatic-pilot approach gets old in a hurry.
From "Moment of Truth" to "Laronda" to "Say No More", "Prime Time" is full of formulaic instrumentals that are more than happy to fade into the background.
The album also includes a note-for-note cover of the Kings of Leon's 2008 hit "Use Somebody", which Taylor performs as an instrumental.
Some jazz purists would fault Taylor for embracing something by an alternative pop/rock group like Kings of Leon, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with Taylor recording "Use Somebody." The fact is that jazz instrumentalists have a long history of taking mainstream popular songs and using them as vehicles for personal expression.
Regrettably, what Taylor does with "Use Somebody" sounds vacuous and superficial rather than personal, which is a shame because like so many people in smooth jazz, Taylor has the chops and the talent to offer more than just elevator music.
But again, "Prime Time" has its moments -- and "Can't Nobody" and "Space" are easy to like even though Taylor, from a creative standpoint, sells himself short on the smooth jazz instrumentals that dominate this 41-minute CD. A. Henderson

Try instead Ladies Choice [Us Import].

Culture Of Fear
Culture Of Fear
Price: £9.10

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Old and new fans will likely find a lot to enjoy on it., 10 July 2011
This review is from: Culture Of Fear (Audio CD)
When Eric Hilton and Rob Garza came together to form Thievery Corporation in 1995, the two Washington D.C.-based musicians and DJs were breaking new ground. Taking inspiration from British trip-hop artists like Massive Attack, Tricky and Portishead, Thievery Corporation successfully combined downtempo electronica grooves with reggae and R&B sounds to create songs that were both musically challenging and great to dance to.
In addition, more than any other band since U2, Hilton and Garza have always written lyrics that reflected the duo's radical politics while still maintaining a groove that makes their missives palatable.
"Culture of Fear" is Thievery Corporation's sixth album, and the collective's old fans will likely find a lot to enjoy on it.
Their trademark mixture of real instruments, electronic textures and phrases that encapsulate everything from Brazilian bossa nova to old-school Jamaican dub are solidly intact.
The juxtaposition of grooves is still profound and disturbing when it needs to be and light and dreamy when the going gets tough, but repeated plays of the new disc also reveal a band in a holding pattern.
And, while that's not necessarily a bad thing -- if something isn't broken, why fix it? -- there is sometimes a creeping sense of sameness to the tracks on the new album that has never been present before.
The title track is by far the best song on the album. Voiced by hip-hop artist Mr. Lif, the song encapsulates all of the politics and justifiable paranoia that have been Thievery Corporation's stock and trade from the outset. It is a crucial, cutting edge song that is, by itself, reason enough to buy the album. Still, one wishes that the rest of the songs lived up to the high bar set by Mr. Lif. But sadly for the most part, the remainder of the tracks, even though they are uniformly well produced and sung, fail to generate much excitement or interest.
This isn't to say that "Culture of Fear" is a bad album. There is some great guitar work from Frederico Aubele and Robbie Myers that gives some dimension and immediacy to the electronic sounds. TC regular LouLou Ghelichkhani adds some lovely vocals, but even her silken voice can't take songs such as "Where it all Starts" beyond the predictable boundaries the duo charted years ago.
Similarly, rising Nigerian superstar "Sleepy Wonder" contributes some very impassioned vocals to "Star Gazer", but it's not enough to shake the feeling of having heard it all before.
At their best, Thievery Corporation created a true cultural melting pot of sounds. Their music never came off as gimmicky when they plundered West African or Indian classical themes. The fluidity and grace they demonstrated on album after album truly set them apart from other musicians working in the electronica field.
Collaborations with the best artists in world and alternative music -- including Femi Kuti, Anoushka Shankar, Perry Farrell and David Byrneel - evated Thievery Corporation to a level of musical integrity that few electronic musicians have ever achieved, much less maintained throughout their careers.
In the end, "Culture of Fear" is a good album, but it doesn't push any boundaries or claim any new ground.
The burst of the unexpected that was once 'de rigeur' with The Thievery Corporation is sadly missing on this place-keeper of a record. The grooves are still powerful, dense and spiritual, but they don't take the listener anywhere new on this surprise-free record. D Heselgrave
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 10, 2011 3:51 PM BST

Soul UK
Soul UK

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A little conventional, but her voices shines throughout this covers' record., 4 July 2011
This review is from: Soul UK (Audio CD)
Celebrating the best of Soul in the UK, the front woman of Soul this side of the Atlantic Beverley Knight has compiled a record dedicated to the UK Soul movement.
With other genres of music getting high praise over the course of 40 years like Rock, Techno, Hip Hop and now Dubstep getting the attention of the pop charts, Beverley wants to address the importance of Soul music and how it has affected the likes of British artists.
Spanning across the late 70s until the early 90s, the songs touch a certain generation as sentimental, the rest of us get to here some classics again from yesteryear that were perhaps forgotten.
Some powerful ballads show off her voice but her capabilities don't stop there.
Tracks like "Mama Used To Say" originally by Junior in 1982 and "Apparently Nothin'" (featuring Glen Scott & Roots Manuva) by Young Disciples make sure this record isn't just one style of Soul but it covers the whole spectrum of the genre.
There are some interesting choices of material on "Soul UK" in which some people might not link to two artists together.
For instance, the last song on the album called "One More Try" is a track by none other than George Michael. A great artist but you might not necessarily put Beverley in the same breath. Though with a little change in instruments and a different vibe in place, Beverley creates a great re-mastered version of the George Michael classic and deserves its place on the record for sure.
Though you are treated to a hit upon hit collection, some fans might feel cheated that there are no original songs by the singer/songwriter.
After her previous record "100%" was released in 2009, her fans might have thought Beverley wanted to contribute the same way in her future projects rather than just stating the point for one record.
We know Beverly is a talented musician and can conjure up a song by little walks in life and it would have been nice to see it expressed yet again.
However, the message is clear throughout the record on what Beverley wants to accomplish, to remind people about the strong history the country has with Soul music and it's not just the Americans who know how to create good Soul music.
With this in mind, you would have to say that the album will stretch the knowledge of the UK public to discover new British Soul that they may or may not have heard of before.
Artists such as Freeez, Princess, Loose Ends, Rod Temperton, Jaki Graham, Andrew Roachford and Lewis Taylor have essentially been given a new life. Dean Woodhouse
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 23, 2011 8:45 PM BST

Round Midnight
Round Midnight
Price: £13.67

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A darkly cool nightclub set., 3 May 2011
This review is from: Round Midnight (Audio CD)
The American vocalist/pianist Karrin Allyson's 2011 effort 'Round Midnight' is a smoky, afterglow affair that builds upon the singer's noted skill for interpreting jazz and pop standards.
Conceptualized around the classic Thelonious Monk title track, the album plays like a darkly cool nightclub set -- not dissimilar to the kind of live performances Allyson is known for.
Backing Allyson here is a superb lineup featuring guitarist Rod Fleeman, bassist Ed Howard, and drummer Matt Wilson, as well as saxophonist Bob Sheppard and harmonica player Randy Weinstein.
Together, Allyson and her ensemble deliver intensely dramatic and romantic takes on such standards as the leadoff "Turn Out the Stars", the mid-album "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most", and of course the title track, which Allyson performs starkly with just bass accompaniment.
Elsewhere, Allyson gives a sweetly moving take on Paul Simon's "April Come She Will" and goes against the usual uptempo style of "I'm Always Chasing Rainbow", instead delivering a ruminative, impressionistic slow-ballad version that allows her to reveal the nuances of Gene Lee's lyrics. Ultimately, it's Allyson's emotive voice and her ability to bring out these soft, bittersweet nuances in every track that makes 'Round Midnight such a listenable and heartfelt album. M. Collar

Spiritual Swingers
Spiritual Swingers
Price: £8.53

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is a GREAT compilation...hitting on some lesser known and lesser compiled treats..., 3 May 2011
This review is from: Spiritual Swingers (Audio CD)
Compilations such as this are almost always disappointments. For me, there are far too many vocalists present. But Nicola Conte, whose most recent albums have swarmed in too many vocalisms, has assembled a rather terrific set of "spiritual swingers" here from the European-owned Universal Music catalog.
I'm not sure that all of the tracks presented here would qualify as many other people's definition of "spiritual swingers", including mine. But the music, as presented, is a remarkably coherent and surprisingly enjoyable set none the less.
You have to wonder if Conte knows what he's talking about when he says that "many boppers turned their heads to discover consciously their African roots" - especially as so many of the artists present here are white or black artists appropriating white pop material. It doesn't matter. Spiritual is as Spiritual does. One man's floor is another man's ceiling and so on.
This is a GREAT compilation...hitting on some lesser known and lesser compiled treats that sound absolutely stunning as a set. Even the vocal pieces have a great spiritual quality to them that are less about vocal acrobatics and more about musical qualities.
Maybe that was the idea. And it helps me understand musical philosophies that don't necessarily accord with my own. This one works particularly well:
1. Afro Blue / Abbey Lincoln (from Abbey is Blue, Riverside, 1959)
2. New Delhi / James Clay (from A Double Dose of Soul), Riverside, 1960)
3. Bogota / Ahmad Jamal (from the great Macanudo, Argo, 1962)
4. Taboo / Dorothy Ashby (from In A Minor Groove, New Jazz, 1958)
5. Baltimore Oriole / Lorez Alexandria (from For Members Only Argo, 1963)
6. Swahili / Clark Terry (from Clark Terry, EmArcy, 1955)
7. Jungle Fantasy / Yusef Lateef (from a 1961 45-rpm single)
8. My Favorite Things / The Sound of Feeling with Oliver Nelson (from Leonard Feather Presents The Sound Of Feeling And The Sound Of Oliver Nelson, Verve, 1967)
9. Modette / Roy Haynes (from Cymbalism, New Jazz, 1963)
10. A Taste Of Honey / Andy Bey & The Bey Sisters (from Andy Bey & The Bey Sisters, Prestige, 1964)
11. Senor Blues / Anita O'Day with the Gary McFarland Orchestra (from All The Sad Young Men, Verve,1961)
12. Spanish Castles / George Gruntz (from Jazz Sound-Track "Mental Cruelty", Decca, 1960)
13. Subo / Klaus Weiss Trio (from Greensleeves, Philips, 1966)
14. Juan-Les-Pins / Staffan Abeleen Quintet (from Djingis Khan, Sonet, 1962)
15. Big P / The New Jazz Orchestra (from Western Reunion London 1965, Decca, 1965)
16. Milestones / Mark Murphy (from Rah!, Riverside, 1961)
17. The Hooter / Ernie Wilkins And His Orchestra (from the 1961 Riverside 45-rpm single)
18. Feeling Good / Pat Bowie (from Feeling Good, Prestige, 1965)

As Dusty Groove says: Spirit, swing, and a whole lot more -- a mighty collection of music all hand-picked by the legendary Nicola Conte! There's a deeply soulful groove to the whole thing -- and a touch of the exotic as well -- and the package really reminds us a lot of the great Gilles Peterson Universal collections that were out a few years back -- full of deep tones and rich colors, and proof that when you've got the right guy at the helm, a collection of older jazz tracks can be way more than just the sum of its parts!
In addition to Universal label work - originally issued on Decca, Emarcy, and other labels - the package features some Fantasy/Prestige tracks too - including some great gems we might have missed otherwise. Almost 75 minutes of music !! D. Payne


Track List:
Abby Lincoln - Afro-Blue
James Clay - New Delhi
Ahmad Jamal - Bogota
Dorothy Ashby - Taboo
Lorez Alexandria - Baltimore Oriole
Clark Terry - Swahili
Yusef Lateef - Jungle Fantasy
The Sound Of Feeling - My Favorite Things
Roy Haynes - Modette
Andy Bey And The Bey Sisters - A Taste Of Honey
Anita O Day - Senor Blues
George Gruntz - Spanish Castles
Klaus Weiss Trio - Subo
Staffan Abeleen Quintet - Juan Les Pins
The New Jazz Orchestra - Big P
Mark Murphy - Milestones
Ernie Wilkins And His Orchestra - The Hooter
Pat Bowie - Feeling Good

Rebirth of New Orleans
Rebirth of New Orleans
Offered by Books2anywhereUS
Price: £7.17

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A rousing triumph., 3 May 2011
This review is from: Rebirth of New Orleans (Audio CD)
Formed in 1982 by young men from the Tremé - Tremé, a neighborhood in the city of New Orleans - who'd played together in high school, The Rebirth Brass Band built their fame via recordings, tours, and famous alums who bridge generations and genres.
After The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the Rebirth Brass Band is perhaps the best contemporary New Orleans ensemble working in vintage marching band style. The group formed in the early '80s while they were still in school. In the latter half of the decade, the band gained of the critics and the public alike. Since the late '80s, The Rebirth Brass Band has cut albums for Rounder and Arhoolie, utilizing multiple trombone/trumpet/tuba instrumentation. They also play booming uptempo tunes, spirituals, rags, marching numbers, and originals, doing them all with a traditional feel and contemporary sensibility.
Originally co-founded by Phil Frazier (tuba/sousaphone), his brother Keith (bass drum), and Kermit Ruffins (trumpet), the band's lineup expands or contracts according to the needs of each recording.
Rebirth of New Orleans' lineup is made up of Derrick Tabb on snare, Byron Bernard and Vincent Broussard on sax, Stafford Agee and Corey Henry on trombone, Glen Andrews and Derrick Shezbie on trumpet, plus the founding Frazier brothers.
Composer David Bartholomew and guest vocalist Lionel Delpit appear in the credits. Guest rappers, vocalists, and percussionists have appeared whenever the material dictates, but hybridized arrangements of Dixieland swing, uptempo rags, gospel, and Mardi Gras tunes are easily handled by the group's core.
Heavy on original compositions--Stafford Agee's "Dilemma" and Glen Andrews' "AP Touro" are particular standouts--the 11 tracks on Rebirth of New Orleans fuse the dancefloor intensity of jump blues to the cerebral virtuosity of bebop with the cool discipline of a military drum corps.
Long respected for their ability to fall out of a deep funk pocket and into a controlled moment of harmolodic freedom (and back) like a kid demonstrating difficult yo-yo tricks, "Rebirth" proves that serious jazz chops don't have to kill an exuberant street party vibe.
There are no rap or pop-soul covers like the ones that graced "Hot Venom" or "We Come to Party", but neither does "Rebirth" try to recreate anything resembling a "vintage" New Orleans sound.
The Dixieland lilt of album opener "Exactly like You" lets a militaristic snare solo introduce the best tune Louis Armstrong never recorded. But this hat tip to cabaret sophistication is quickly abandoned for a range of uptempo instrumentals, ensemble chants and playful shoutouts geared toward crowd participation.
Tracks like "The Dilemma", "Why Your Feet Hurt", and "What Goes Around" offer brief confessions or sly taunts that reveal the band's collective personality in concise bursts of information.
As an index of new directions and new vitality within Rebirth (and the evolving category of "tuba-funk"), Rebirth of New Orleans is a rousing triumph.
Hot Venom
We Come to Party
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 23, 2011 1:16 PM BST

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