When The Souljazz Orchestra released their acoustic album Rising Sun in 2101, it was to widespread critical acclaim. Now two years later, The Souljazz Orchestra are celebrating their tenth anniversary with the release of their fifth album Solidarity, which will be released by Strut Records on 17th September 2012. During the last ten years, The Souljazz Orchestra have come a long way, with their compelling fusion of musical influences and genres. Having released their debut album Uprooted in 2005, three further albums were released in the next five years. Freedom Must Die was released in 2007, with Manifesto following in 2008 and Rising Sun in 2010. For their fifth album, The Souljazz Orchestra have changed direction from the acoustic style of Rising Sun to an electric, vocal driven style. Joining The Souljazz Orchestra are a number of guest artists, plus a fascinating and eclectic selection of instruments, as they embark on a journey through African, Latin and Caribbean music, via detours into jazz and soul. On that journey, The Souljazz Orchestra sing in English, Spanish, Portugese and Wolof. Before I tell you about the ten tracks that comprise Solidarity, I’ll tell you the background to Solidarity.

Having unplugged and recorded an acoustic album Rising Sun last time out, The Souljazz Orchestra dust off an eclectic selection of instruments. Many of these are instruments are long lost, sometimes unloved junk shop finds. A transistor organ, cheap guitars, reverb and echo units, an electric piano rescued from a dumpster and the crowning glory, an old eight-track Tascam tape machine, that was bought at a yard sale by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Incredibly, the ten tracks on Solidarity were recorded on this old eight-track Tascam tape-deck, which is described by The Souljazz Orchestra as temperamental. This gives Solidarity a really raw lo-fi, analogue sound. Having said that, The Souljazz Orchestra and their guest artists give Solidarity its soulful sound.

Joining The Souljazz Orchestra on Solidarity are El Hadji “Elage” M’baye, whose originally from Saint-Louis, on the coast of Senegal. He now lives in Quebec, Canada and is from a long line of griot minstrels, who fuse of Wolof and popular music. Singer, songwriter and guitarist Rommel Texeira Ribeiro who is from Sao Luis in Southern Brazil, but now lives in Ottawa, is famed for his melting pot of musical genres, including West African, Caribbean and North American music also features on Solidarity. Joining them are jazz trumpeter Nicholas Dyson, baritone saxophonist Ray Murray, drummer and conguero Philippe Lafreniere. Then there’s the vocal delights of Slim Moore and Amelia Leclair, who sings backing vocals on Solidarity. These are the personnel that join The Souljazz Orchestra on their forthcoming album Solidarity, which I’ll now tell you about.

Bibinay opens The Souljazz Orchestra’s fifth album Solidarity. Like the other tracks on Solidarity, is a song with a social message. The song deals with the exploitation of natural resources by big business, at the expense of the local people and environment. Written in Wolof and English, the message is clear, delivered with vocal full of frustration and anger, against an Afro-tinged backdrop. Percussion, blazing horns and drums combine with an angry and frustrated vocal. There’s a raw, lo-fi sound to the track, with each of the musicians giving a wholehearted, impassioned performance. Horns rasp soaring high above the arrangement, while stabs of piano, a proliferation of percussion and pounding drums provide the punchy, dramatic backdrop for the vocal. Not only is this music with a message, but music played with emotion and passion.

Kelen Ati Leen is a track based on a Wolof folk tale, written in Senegal’s Orchestra Baoba in 1975 after James Brown visited Dakar. It’s almost a homage to the Godfather of Funk, as a blistering slice of funk unfolds. A punchy, powerful vocal is accompanied by a driving, funky arrangement. This blistering slice of funk has wah-wah guitars, growling horns, percussion and drums at its heart. Soon you’re spellbound and mesmerized by the track’s glorious rhythms, percussive delights and funky guitars aplenty.

Cartão Postal is a fusion of music from two continents. Brazilian samba and Angolan semba unite. Percussion, rolls of thundering drums, joyous vocals and guitars combine, before the impassioned vocal enters. Backing vocalists respond the lead vocal samba style, as The Souljazz Orchestra kick loose. A pounding bass joins the fusion of frenzied percussion, thunderous drums. Later, a sizzling guitar solo weaves its may across the arrangement. By now you can’t help but submit to this fusion of semba and samba. It’s irresistible, music for the heart and soul.

Ya Basta is a salsa dura style protest song written in Spanish, demanding equality for the working class and an end to abuses of power. Here, glorious rhythms unfold, with steel drums, percussion and growling horns providing the track’s heartbeat. Flourishes of organ, flutes and mesmerizing rhythms courtesy of The Souljazz Orchestra, are accompanied by impassioned, chanted vocals. Together, they get across the song’s message of “Enough Already.”

Solidarity is a musical journey through a wide variety of musical influences and styles. On Jericho, the style changes to Afro-Reggae. This should mean more of these infectious and gloriously catchy rhythms that defy you to keep still. You’re not  disappointed, when a reggae-style vocal is accompanied by slow, pulsating rhythms and bursts of blazing horns. These rhythms and horns are some of the best on Solidarity, as The Souljazz Orchestra seamlessly move from salsa to reggae peerlessly.

From Afro-Reggae, to a heavy duty slice of Afrobeat Serve and Protect. It’s written in Wolof and Toronto, and was inspired by the events of the G20 Summit in Toronto. From the get-go this is a joy to behold. Pounding beats, frantic percussion, stabs of organ and chanted vocals drive the track along dramatically. As thunderous drums, bursts of growling horns and vocals combine, a scintillating organ solo takes centre-stage. It’s closely followed by one of the best horn solos on the album. The result is a mesmerizing and dramatic, heavy duty slice of Afrobeat, Souljazz Orchestra style.

Conquering Lion is a fitting description of this track. With its fusion of Afro-funk and breakbeat plus a Magnus Opus of a masterclass from the horn section. Truly, this track conquers all. The breakbeat influence is apparent straight away, when bursts of horns, drums and percussion combine. Straight away, the horns take charge, grabbing the track by the scruff of its neck. Drums crack, while stabs and later, flourishes of organ and occasional vocals punctuate the track. Mostly it’s the horns that have your attention, they growl and rasp, soaring and sizzling as this mesmeric mixture of Afrobeat, funk and breakbeat unfolds. Of the ten tracks on Solidarity, this has no equal. Once you’ve heard it, you’ll surely agree.

Kingpin is a dancehall reggae track, condemning gun violence in Jamaican parties. The meandering arrangement sees stabs of horns, rhythm section and bursts of organ combining, while the vocal is sung patois style. Like the last reggae track, The Souljazz Orchestra fuse some percussive delights with glorious Jamaican rhythms. Space is left in the arrangement, with bursts of organ filling the spaces left behind by rhythm section. The finishing touch is the heartfelt and impassioned vocal, almost rapped in a Jamaican toaster style.

Tanbou Lou, which is Heavy Drum in French Creole is a uptempo, joyous biguine jazz track. This music originated in Martinique in the nineteenth century. Nowadays, the sound is compared to New Orleans jazz and R&B. An uplifting mixture of the drum biguine, sizzling horns, percussion and pounding rhythm section. During the track, a lengthy, drum solo is unleashed. It’s truly mesmerizing. Glorious rhythms unfold, and are like a call to dance. You can’t resist this infectiously catchy music, and it can’t help but bring joy into your life. Resistance is impossible, best just submit to the charms and delights of the biguine drum.

Closing Solidarity is Nijaay, which here, means sweetheart and its message is never take your partner for granted. A slow, thoughtful guitar solo is accompanied by a heartfelt, emotive vocal. Backing vocalists accompany the lead vocal, reflecting its emotion and sincerity. When a trumpet solo replaces the vocal, it adds to the emotion and beauty of the track. This is the perfect way to close Solidarity, with track this not just emotive and heartfelt, but deeply soulful and very beautiful.

On Solidarity, The Souljazz Orchestra take you on a musical journey through various musical genres. There’s everything from Angolan semba, Afrobeat, biguine jazz, Brazilian samba, Carribean, funk, jazz, reggae and Wolof on Solidarity, which will be relased by Strut on 17th September 2012. You hear some glorious rhythms, percussive delights and impassioned, heartfelt vocals. It’s ten tracks featuring the combined talents of the multi-talented Souljazz Orchestra and their equally talented and far-travelled guest artists. Their music is about togetherness, standing up against injustice, discrimination and persecution. They want to bring about change, making the world a better place. That’s what the music on Solidarity is about. That music was recorded on an old eight-track Tascam tape deck, giving Solidarity a really raw lo-fi, analogue sound. That’s much of Solidarity’s charm. So this isn’t a slick, polished production. Instead, it’s music that’s soulful, music that for the heart, the soul and the feet. Many of the tracks are irresistible, you want to submit to their delights and lose yourself in its rhythms and beats. Similarly, you realize that Solidarity is music with a message, music for a new and constantly changing world. Once you’ve embarked upon The Souljazz Orchestra’s musical adventure that is Solidarity, you’ll want to experience the journey again, and revel in its glorious, fusion of musical styles and influences. Standout Tracks: Kelen Ati Leen, Serve and Protect, Conquering Lion and Tanbou Lou.



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