Archive | Albums

ALBUM: Jessica Lauren – Almería

ALBUM: Jessica Lauren – Almería

Since the early 1990s, keyboard player Jessica Lauren has been a familiar part of London’s alternative music scene. Jessica’s keyboard skills have augmented the live performances and studio recordings of world renowned artists such as Jean Carne, Tom Browne, Dexter Wansel and James Mason, Japan’s United Future Organisation, and UK soul diva Juliet Roberts.

Her previous Freestyle album ‘Jessica Lauren Four’ (2012) highlighted Jessica’s minimalist approach, something rare and refreshing in the jazz world: she instills her compositions and playing with a refined sense of space which makes her music as much about what she doesn’t play as what she does.

The albums’ opener – Kofi Nomad is a deeply percussive afrocentric epic, featuring the beautiful baritone saxaphone of Tamar ‘Collocutor’ Osborn, one of the most in demand woodwind players working today, underpinned by a powerful foundation of percussion courtesy of Richard Ọlátúndé Baker, Phillip Harper and drummer Cosimo Keita Cadore.

Jessicas’ amazing skill for writing simple, understated yet superbly memorable and catchy hooks remains undiminished. Highlights in this new collection are almost too numerous to mention, but Amalfi is a breezy bossa, which conjures up images of easy living days and sun dappled Mediterranean coastlines, whilst the angular and brooding Simba Jike has something of an Eddie Harris style deep, dark groove over which Jessica riffs and solos beautifully on grand piano – and Tamar once again blows freely, whilst ‘level’ Neville Malcolms’ upright bass figure roots the entire thing in a solid, almost primeval sound.

The albums closing statement Argentina is a masterpiece of pathos and perfectly demonstrates Jessicas’ approach which is almost akin to a minimalist architecture style of composing and playing, such is the strength of its atmosphere and subtlety.

ALBUM: Courtney Pine Black Notes from the Deep

ALBUM: Courtney Pine Black Notes from the Deep

No musician embodies more the dramatic transformation in the British jazz scene over the past thirty years than Courtney Pine. His debut album, Journey To The Urge Within in 1987, was the first serious jazz album ever to make the British Top 40, notching up sales to qualify for a silver disc.

Aside from being the preeminent figure in the resurgence of British jazz, Courtney became a renowned presenter and broadcaster, best known for his long running radio show for BBC Radio 2, ‘Jazz Crusade’. He was also awarded an O.B.E in the 2000 New Year’s Honours, and was also made a C.B.E in 2009 for services to Music.

As an artist always looking to work outside of, and across established musical genres, it is easier to list the musicians and artists he hasn’t worked with, and styles he hasn’t fused with jazz, but now in 2017 Courtney releases a brand new album – the nineteenth of his career, one of his most varied and eclectic to date, ranging as it does from funk tinged foot tappers, to beautiful and tender ballads.

Black Notes From The Deep includes four tracks featuring another British music icon of equal repute, Courtneys’ Freestyle Records label mate and an artist also honoured for his own creative endeavours; Omar Lyefook M.B.E. This is a musical pairing so wonderful it is hard to believe it didn’t happen years ago, but the end results speak for themselves.

For this brand new album, Courtney assembled a line up of like minded instrumentalists, perfectly suited to his fresh and unique approach . With this absolutely rock solid group behind him, including Alec Dankworth on bass duties, the enviably talented Robert Mitchell on piano, with Rod Youngs providing his masterful drumming, this is a dream ticket line up to back Courtney. There is a welcome appearance by veteran jazz organist Ed Bently on In Another Time, and the gifted guitarist Chris Cobbson adds some beautiful textures on the The Morning After The Night Before.

The highlights within this album are many – but the exciting and fresh interpretation of Herbie Hancocks’ Butterfly seems destined to be one of the most remarkable, featuring as it does Omars’ fantastic vocal performance which rides sweetly on top of the dreamy backing vocals of Charleen Hamilton – and of course Courtneys’ flowing, imaginative and creative solo perfects this modern version of a much loved classic.

Courtney has been lauded as the most original, ceaselessly creative and inventive British jazz musician since the start of his career over 30 years ago – and Black Notes From The Deep proves that he still is.

ALBUM: The Andy Tolman Cartel – Cypher

ALBUM: The Andy Tolman Cartel – Cypher

For decades, if you wanted to listen to great music all you needed to do was stare at a screen! TV and film soundtracks were often the work of US legends such as Lalo Schiffrin, Oliver Nelson & Quincy Jones, and their Uk counterparts Ronnie Hazelhurst and Alan Hawkshaw, provided the soundtrack to the 60’s & 70’s at a time when film and TV music was unashamedly funky and featured the ensemble of choice for the jazz arranger.. the big band!

A 21st century musician wit comparable skills is Andy Tolman – an astounding bass player, but also highly adept at writing & arranging for a big band and who is heavily influenced by those greatest practitioners of the art. Andy met to Nick van Gelder (the original Jamiroquai drummer) and keyboard guru Carl Hudson whilst doing a run of gigs backing artists like Leon Ware and Jean Carne. Andy played Nick You What! and he asked if he could lay a drum track down and at around the same time Carl offered his services on the record also. Nick went on to drum on the entire album and produce the recordings too.

At the tail end of 2011, when Freestyle Records A&R man Greg Boramans’ compilation ‘Sounds From The Soul Underground’ was released the glorious noise of The Andy Tolman Cartel first came to public attention. The amazing track You What! had one foot in jazz-funk & the other in film & TV themes of the 60’s and 70’s, found champions in Jazz FM’s Peter Young and BBC 6 Musics Craig Charles who both featured it on their radio shows heavily.

Andy himself takes up the story; After You What! found it’s way onto Gregs’ compilation he asked me how many more tracks I had, I kind of lied (sorry Greg!) and said a whole albums worth. Having shot my mouth off I thought I had better set about delivering… a daunting prospect, and a promise I probably wouldn’t have made had I been sober at the time. So I called upon the services of some of the amazing musicians I have worked with over the past few years. Move Over was the first song I heard Jo Harman sing and Stevie Watts award winning Hammond organ playing seemed like a natural fit too

‘Cypher’ is indeed the perfect example of a natural fit of like minded musicians and their natural talents and the delightfully natural sound of a big band cutting loose that has not been heard for a long time making a welcome and long overdue return.

ALBUM: Omar – Love in Beats

ALBUM: Omar – Love in Beats

Stevie Wonder, Angie Stone, Syreeta Wright, Common, Estelle, Incognito’s Bluey Maunick, Erykah Badu, Carleen Anderson, Caron Wheeler, Leon Ware, India Arie, Lamont Dozier, Zed Bias, Pino Palladino, Roger Sanchez, Guru & Jazzmatazz, Maddslinky, Kele le Roc, Mario Biondi…all these people have one thing in common – all are admirers of, and past collaborators with the truly unique, gifted, original artist… British soul pioneer Omar (Omar Lyefook – MBE)

When I grow up, I wanna be like Omar – Stevie Wonder
Still …one of the best voices I’ve ever heard – Erykah Badu

The musical history is renowned – the Lyefook family has musical talent embedded deep in it’s DNA. Omars’ father Byron worked as a studio musician and drummer with Bob Marley, Horace Andy and even The Rolling Stones. Samia Lye-Fook (Omar’s sister) is a highly regarded vocalist in her own right, and a BRIT School alumni. Omars’ younger brother, the Grammy winning producer, remixer and DJ professionally known as Scratch Professer has been making jaws drop since, as a 13 year old, stunning the crowd at the 1988 DMC UK Finals with his turntablist skills – and of course – lets not forgot their big brother….Omar.

Following on from 2013’s album The Man, his first for London based independent label Freestyle Records, 2017 sees his new long player further cement his enviable reputation, as did receiving his MBE for services to music at Buckingham Place, and featuring in Javon Princes’ comedy series on BBC2 television. Love In Beats is Omars’ 8th studio album and may just be the most eclectic & varied to date.

Somewhat more electronic in it’s conception and sound than it’s predecessor, Love In Beats incorporates soul, Caribbean rhythms, an undercurrent of funk, with touches of zouk, a jazzy waltz, spoken word and also features collaborations with US soul legend Leon Ware, Blue Note pianist Robert Glasper, rapper Ty, Guadeloupe born singer Jean-Michele Rotin, and Uk soultress Natasha Watts, The Floacist and Mayra Andrade, the Cape Verdean born singer who lives and records in Paris.

Mainly recorded at his own Backayard Studio in South London his unique voice, multi -instrumental and production skills, together Omar and Scratch have brought forth a new collection that may just be the most beautifully formed and career defining album of all. Omar expands up on the inspiration, and the long running musical brotherhood which has forged this latest collection: ‘This is album is labour of love between myself and my Grammy award winning brother The Scratch Professer. Powerful songs over mesmerising beats in the evolution – that is omarmusic and Brothers sound, it is truly ‘Love in Beats’

The Vinyl LP will be available on the 10th March, pre-order here.

ALBUM: The Craig Charles Funk & Soul Club, Vol. 4

ALBUM: The Craig Charles Funk & Soul Club, Vol. 4

I can hardly believe the very first edition of the Craig Charles Funk & Soul Club came out in 2012 – much time has passed, but my mission remains the same – to give you lucky lucky people another hard hitting selection – a crafty musical right hook, another fist full of funky things – and this new collection packs a hell of a punch!

For Volume 4 – we open up with 3 disco tinged bangers, Kylie Auldists’ Family Tree will transport you directly onto the dance-floor of New York’s legendary Studio 54 discotheque – Smoove & Turrell’s cover of Hot Chocolates’ You Could’ve Been A Lady’ has got that Newcastle boogie oogie oogie vibe down – Lexsoul DanceMachine have marinated Beef Grinder in sizzling hi hat cymbals and a spicy clav riff so saucy Stevie Wonder would be shocked!

Add into the mix 3 classics dug from the crates – one from Brian Auger, one of the best Hammond organ players ever, one intensely catchy number from from Ginger Johnson & His African Messengers, and a super rare track from John Heartsman & Circlesthat comes from an album so rare that it has changed hands for $5,000!

Mix in a crop of contemporary funk, soul and latin bangers from acts such as The New Mastersounds, The Tibbs, Lisa Stansfield, Lack Of Afro ft Joss Stone, Sunlightsquare, Marta Ren & The Groovelvets, Flevans, a killer groove from Lance Ferguson’s Black Feeling Vol 3, a 100% exclusive track from The Fantastics! feat Sulene Fleming too, and you’ve got the soundtrack to an instant party on your hands..

So there you have it boys & girls – I give you The Craig Charles Funk & Soul Club Volume 4 – the cream of the current crop, the choicest cuts of my favourite slices of the slinkiest soul, weapons grade funk bombs – it does exactly what it says on the tin..and then some.

Craig Charles.

ALBUM: Carleen Anderson Cage Street Memorial – The Pilgrimage

ALBUM: Carleen Anderson Cage Street Memorial – The Pilgrimage

Cage Street Memorial ~ The Pilgrimage, Carleen Anderson’s 7th solo album, is something special, different and absolutely unique. The winner of Jazz FM’s 2013 Best UK Vocalist Award blends styles ranging from jazz, soul, gospel, opera, to classical chamber music. The mixture of musical genres makes this an exciting, genuine and highly personal offering that sits far outside the boundaries of contemporary soul and urban music. This project is not just an album of original music, it is one part of a creative trilogy, also taking the form of a multi-media theatre production and Carleen’s generational book, Cage Street Memorial ~ The Chapel of Mirrors.

Carleen has lovingly crafted this album using the whole of her talents, lifelong influences and experiences and forged all this into a stand out evolution allowance imbued throughout with her delicate personal approach. Utilising basic instrumentation – her incredibly versatile voice and simplistic piano manner, Orphy Robinson’s synergistic vibraphone & percussion, Samy Bishai’s consummate violin playing, and the subtle and diligent bass skills of Renell Shaw – the collective musicianship delivers an authentic concept.

While each of Anderson’s compositions and arrangements for this soundscape of a tribal narrative symbolises a specific significance, here are a few to signify her chronicle notations:

Upwards from the Ground, lyrically describes an abandoned little girl tracing her roots for salvation as a middle-aged woman. The links of the African Diaspora expressed in the multi-dimensional percussive performance by Orphy Robinson sets the tone for a sort of it takes a village to raise a child theme. The build of the rhythmic groove transports the vocal melodies supported by the harmonies provided by the vibraphone, violin and bass to symbolise the rise from the ashes in spite of dire circumstances.

A chance YouTube viewing of singer/pianist Blossom Dearie alongside vibraphonist Peter Appleyard inspired Anderson to reference the Rachmaninoff motif swung by Charlie Parker for the bass line in her tune, All That Glitters. The subject matter of the song relates to the parallels of fools rushing in pursuit of golden love as it links to the perils of Anderson’s music industry heritage, being the Goddaughter of the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, the stepdaughter of the JB All Stars’ Bobby Byrd, and the daughter of soul singer, Vicki Anderson, aka, Myra Barnes, who was often cited as the most favoured of James Brown’s featured vocalists. The jazz tinged swing of this composition is a cautionary tale to mind that things may not be what they seem.

With the platform provided by her singer/songwriter contributions for the band, The Young Disciples, whose album Road to Freedom and music chart hit, Apparently Nothing, introduced Anderson to an audience beyond the shadows of her inherited legacy, Pond Crossing contextualises the grateful awareness she has of the podium the UK supplied her with. England’s embrace of Anderson led to her Brit Award nominated first solo album, True Spirit, followed by her second album, Blessed Burden, co-produced with Paul Weller. In between her independent album releases, Alberta’s Granddaughter, Grace & Favours, Up to Now and Soul Providence, Anderson was honoured to be featured and/or collaborate with Nigel Kennedy, Dr. John, Omar, Meshell Ndgeocello, Sir Paul McCartney, Incognito, the London Community Gospel Choir, Johnny Cash, Pops Staples, Ramsay Lewis, the Ronnie Scott’s All Stars, Lalah Hathaway, and Chrissie Hynde, a short list of the wide range of artists she’s worked with. The music and lyrics are a snapshot of an ocean put into a cup.

In this seventh autonomous overture, Anderson redefines herself as a Singing Poet from the New Guard, setting music to the scenes of the human experience. CAGE STREET MEMORIAL is The Pilgrimage.

ALBUM: Brian Auger – Back to the Beginning …Again: The Brian Auger Anthology, Vol. 2

ALBUM: Brian Auger – Back to the Beginning …Again: The Brian Auger Anthology, Vol. 2

Brian Auger, the London born keyboard genius & musical pioneer, lauded and loved by everybody from Herbie Hancock to Mose Allison, from the Brand New Heavies to The Beastie Boys, whose tracks have been sampled by Mos Def, Common, Air and Kid Loco, and his original compositions covered by Sarah Vaughan, Richard ‘Groove’ Holmes and he is the proud recipient of a US Congressional Award For Services to Jazz!

Since the 2015 release of volume one of Back To The Beginning – The Brian Auger Anthology, it’s fair to say that a whole new audience of fans and taste makers have joined the massed ranks of music lovers who were already aware of this great mans incredible, pioneering music and career that now spans over 50 years. After more sell out tours of the US, UK and Europe in the last 12 months, magazine features and an epic, 2 hour interview with Gilles Peterson on BBC 6 Music – more people than ever now grasp what a genre busting, pioneering artist Brian is.

This second volume brings together not only remastered classics from Brian’s’ career, but also super rare, and previously unreleased tracks. Check out his blistering jazz piano tracks from the early 60’s including Poinciana and Work Song, the barely known, late 60’s Hammond organ & big band versions of jazz standards Moanin’, Sister Sadie, and the incredibly gritty version by The Trinity of Jimmy McGriffs’ MG Blues, and the Big John Patton penned Funky Mama! The version of Miles Davis’ All Blues featuring Trinity vocalist Julie Driscoll needs to be heard to be believed.

As well as Oblivion Express perennials such as Straight Ahead, Inner City Blues and Happiness Is Just Around The Bend (Brians original composition, made famous by Cuba Gooding Seniors The Main Ingredient) there is also a demo version of Black Octopus, featuring The Headhunters Mike Clark & Paul Jackson, recorded in Brians’ Bay Area garage after Herbie Hancock split that equally groundbreaking group.

You will also be swept away by Ella, the rare track Brian wrote and dedicated to his wife of nearly 50 years – and you will no doubt be up on your feet when checking out brand new, previously unreleased live versions of Whenever You’re Ready and Freedom Jazz Dance, featuring original Oblivion Express vocalist Alex Ligertwood – recorded on 2015’s epic and triumphant European tour and released here for the very first time.

Back To The Beginning..Again is a fantastic collection that demonstrates why Brian Auger is considered legendary.

ALBUM: Kylie Auldist – Family Tree

ALBUM: Kylie Auldist – Family Tree

Australian vocalist extraordinaire Kylie Auldist will be no stranger to soul & funk fans, her searing soul singing having featured on her own albums ‘Made Of Stone’ ,’Still Life’ (Tru Thoughts) also in The Bamboos, as well as Freestyle Records own Cookin’ On 3 Burners.

Her unmistakable voice is currently topping the pop charts across Europe, as the Kungs remix of Cookin’ On 3 Burners ‘This Girl’ has proven a sure fire hit with club audiences as well as pop fans. It has been playlisted on BBC Radio 1 and Capital FM, and has been Number 2 in the Official UK Chart for weeks!

For her first solo album on Freestyle, Kylie, assisted by long time friends & collaborators Lance Ferguson (The Bamboos/Lanu/CO3B/Black Feeling) and Graeme Pogson (of Aussie electronic duo GL) have honed and perfected a collection of amazing new boogie, disco & electro-funk inspired tracks that evoke the feel and sound of late 70’s & early 80’s club classics. Think of classic acts like D Train, Sinnamon, and singers like Chaka Khan, Maxine Singelton, Sharon Redd and you will already start to understand where this new project is rooted.

Waste Of Time, a shimmering, soulful and devilishly catchy mid tempo groover. Graeme Pogsons’synthesizer bass lines are so evocative of that era , they act like a musical time machine! This is perfect summer time soul.

Sensational (which has a fantastic video to accompany it) hits a little harder, the beats, bass line and Kylie’s vocals will drive you onto the dance-floor and stay there until the very last note and begging for more. Good Time Girl doesn’t let the pressure drop for a second and also features a fantastic proto-rap contribution from King Merc – whilst Family Tree is pure Saturday night, feel good disco aimed at the ears and dancing feet.

Look Away takes the tempo down to a mellow mildly introspective place, but the heavy groove still underpins some totally fantastic vocals from Kylie, who surely must now be reconsidered as one of the most soulful singers active today.

ALBUM: Deep Street Soul – Come Alive!

ALBUM: Deep Street Soul – Come Alive!

Deep Street Soul, since signing to Freestyle Records in 2008, have earned a reputation as being right at the grittiest end of the hard funk scene. From their debut self titled instrumental long player to the 2011 follow up ‘Look Out, Watch Out’ (spotlighting the addition of vocalistMighty May Johnston) earned the group accolades from everyone who heard their music, and the audiences who saw them in concert during two spectacular live tours of Europe – the crowning moment being their appearance at 2013’s Saint Paul Soul Jazz Festival in France – which brought home to everyone just how confidently the band had moved up to the next level.

2016 sees them return with this quite spectacular new collection. Whilst the diamond hard, driving grooves remain undiminished, the albums opening track Out Of The Gates should banish any thoughts that this incredible collective could ever slow up or go soft! There is also no doubt that the bands song writing has developed to an equally assured level. Case in point is Souls Come Alive – from Monique Boggia‘s Wurlitzer electric piano intro, the blistering horns and May Johnson’s simply exemplary singing – the songs’ instant appeal will be lost on no one with an ear for genuine organic soul music.

Joshua Tavares, from Melbourne, adds further weight to the idea that Australia is the current hyper fertile nursery for 21st century soul talent. The Hardest Part Is Knowing is a dynamic & sultry ballad that encapsulates precisely what is required when delivering an authentic song of heartbreak just like the way it used to be done.

Guesting on the amazingly catchy Love On Tap is another renowned Australian songbird Kylie Auldist, who as well as being a successful solo artist in her own right, supplies her gilt edged voice to bothCookin’ On 3 Burners & The Bamboos. Two special mentions must also be made; firstly to the Deep Street Soul rhythm section – Warren ‘Waz’ Hunter‘s bass lines are always the perfect partner to Agostino Soldati‘s tighter than Lycra drumming – between them, these two don’t let the pressure drop for a second! And secondly to the new boys – whilst being in the band for 4 years are only just getting their first taste of the action. The ultra catchy horn hooks of Dorian Broomhall &Will Cassell along with the in-the-funk-pocket guitar playing of Mitch Power have done so much to round out the bands sound to what you are now about to aurally enjoy.

Come Alive is Deep Street Souls finest work – no if’s, but’s or maybe’s. It’s a done deal.


ALBUM: Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express – Live In Los Angeles

A brand new live concert recording by Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express..featuring original vocalist Alex Ligertwood back in the fold!

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The second episode of the Freestyle Records podcast is presented by Greg Boraman and features tracks from; Martha High, The Shaolin Afronauts, Jessica Lauren Four, and much more!