February 28, 2014

The Souljazz Orchestra | Inner Fire

ARTIST: The Souljazz Orchestra
TITLE: Inner Fire
LABEL: Strut
The sixth album by Canada’s Souljazz Orchestra cements their status as one of the world’s top multicultural dance bands. Earlier in their career, it seemed as though they’d be pigeonholed as another first-world Afrobeat-meets-jazz combo. There’s nothing wrong with that category (in fact, I’d put several of my favorite bands in it); Souljazz has simply outgrown it on the three albums they’ve made for England’s Strut Records. There’s one Afrobeat-based number here, track 3, and it’s a burner as usual. 2 is in the stomping Ethio-jazz vein of Mulatu Astatke or Debo Band, and it features a new (I think) instrument for the band: harp. Track 6 is a stunning, visceral track built on Cuban rumba rhythms. The band’s biggest influence on this disc is what Europeans like to call “spiritual jazz”: the mystical, searching, Eastern-influenced manner that John Coltrane kick-started with A Love Supreme. 7 gives an Eastern flavor to a theme that’s close to “St. James Infirmary," 4 is a modal workout in the manner of Pharoah Sanders, and 9 is a superb cover of an Andy Bey/Gary Bartz spiritual jazz classic. Another terrific album by Ottawa’s finest.
TOP TRACKS:    2    3    4    6    7    9

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