Genre: Afrobeat / Afro-tropical / World / Roots Reggae
Region: Ottawa, Canada
Artists’ Website: http://www.souljazzorchestra.com/
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Let’s put it straight, ‘Rising Sun’ (2010), Souljazz Orchestra’s previous album reached an artistic level that very few bands can achieve. Surely, the bands three records before that are all exciting especially 2007’s ‘Freedom No Go Die’, but ‘Rising Sun’ delivered something so imaginative and adventurous exceeding even the wildest expectations – a deep afro-jazz milestone that transgressed anything we knew before about combining western and exotic styles.
‘Solidarity’ is a very different album and that honours the band – it verifies their overall approach which is about broadening, deepening and refining their sound rather than resting on their successes. Here we have a further expansion towards latin afro-tropical sounds and that cannot be more timely as the genre has been experiencing an upsurge with acts like Ondatropica. Apart from re-introducing their trademark afrobeat anthems, absent in their previous record, Souljazz Orchestra cast the roots reggae sound in their musical arsenal for the first time in their career. With ‘Solidarity’ they reaffirm their position as the premier activist afro-tropical/jazz/funk ensemble.
‘Bibinay’ together with ‘Serve and Protect’ are their high-standard afrobeat offerings in this album with enchanting polyrhythmic pulse, an authoritative saxophone section and fully-textured vintage keys. The production is electrified, analogue with no rounded edges – it sounds as true and sharp as to blow up the overwhelming digital staleness.
‘Kelen Ati Leen’ is a more typical funk track, deep and psychedelic, a masterful cover of Orchestra Baobab’s original with Senegalese and now Quebec resident El Hadji ‘Élage’ M’Baye on vocals. The band pays homage to Orchestra Baobab once more with the album’s closer ‘Nijaay’.
‘Cartao Postal’ is the first latin mash-up in the album, fervent, party-ready and free to download. The afro-tropical jam continues with ‘Ya Basta’ with rampant Caribbean horns, eloquent strings between melody and riffing and sharp-cutting shouts waking us up from complacency to the declining modern world (militarism, despotism, imperialism etc.). ‘Conquering Lion’ stands beautifully between rock steady and jazz-funk with some latin vibes – an excellent, innovative track. ‘Tanbou Lou’ stands as the most straight-forward afro-latin track in the set.
From the two roots reggae tracks, ‘Kingpin’ ranks higher in my book with conscious lyrics and sizzling vibes featuring Gary ‘Slim’ Moore on vocals. That is maybe a message to a lot of Jamaican artists and producers who in spite of their enormous musical heritage they release tons of tunes but with little content or quality.
The Souljazz Orchestra has been forging their path step-by-step with passion, vision, hard work and determination. After 10 years, 5 albums and countless shows we need to express our gratitude to Pierre Chretien (keyboardist and mastermind), long-standing saxophonists Zakari Frantz, Ray Murray and Steve Patterson and percussionists Marielle Rivard and Philippe Lafreniere. They have pushed the boundaries of afro-funk ensembles to new heights while advancing activist music ‘for positive social change’. In their way they are calling us also to push ourselves forward, innovate and progress in all the other domains of activism, from grassroots media to global networks and local collectives – we need to get our values through if we are ever to experience a world a bit more compassionate and collaborative.
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