Wednesday, March 14, 2018



Saxophonist Azar Lawrence has been having a hell of a renaissance in recent years – and a record like this only helps move that process forward – providing a mighty large feather in Azar's ever-growing cap! The album's a great one from start to finish – a evolution of the spiritual vibe that Lawrence had in the 70s, with maybe some slight Latin currents in the rhythms – all rolling along with this vibe that's soaring and freewheeling, but never too far outside – just boldly stepping into the cosmos, amidst some great new tunes by Lawrence himself, and a few more by pianist Benito Gonzales – whose work here is a key part of the album's sound! The group also features Jeff Littleton on bass, Munyungo Jackson on percussion, and Marvin Smitty Smith on some tremendous drums – on titles that include "African Chant", "La Bossa", "Eye Of The Needle", "Brazilian Girls", "Koko", "Sing To The World", and "Solar Winds". ~ Dusty Groove.


A pair of 70s soul classics from arranger Gene Page – back to back on a single CD! First up is Hot City – an excellent album of Barry White-styled instrumentals – put together by Barry's right hand man Gene Page, and produced by Barry himself! The record's one of the best that Gene Page ever cut – apart from his seminal blacksploitation soundtracks – and it's very much in the mode of White's Love Unlimited Orchestra albums from the same time, although perhaps with less of a string section – and more of an emphasis on funky drums at the bottom. Players are an all-star cast of LA studio groovers that includes David T Walker and Ray Parker on guitar, Ernie Watts and Wilton Felder on saxes, and Clarence McDonald on keyboards – and tracks are mostly originals by Page and White. Titles include "Jungle Eyes", "She's My Main Squeeze", "I Am Living In A World Of Gloom", "Satin Soul", and "To The Bone". Lovelock features Gene Page at the height of his 70s powers – using all the talents he forged as a background artist for other soul talents, and all the majesty he added to his soundtrack work – all focused nicely into a sweet set of warmly soulful grooves! The style's a bit clubby, but also has some wider depth too – maybe an undercurrent of fusion that comes from players like Lee Ritenour and David T Walker on guitar, Joe Sample and Sonny Burke on keyboards, and Oscar Brasher on trumpet – who find a way to work wonderfully alongside the albums vocals from singers Merry Clayton, Edna Wright, and Jim Gilstrap – all with a style that's not unlike some of the best Quincy Jones material of the time! As with Quincy, there's a sense of care and confidence that really holds the album together – on titles that include "Higher My Love", "Organ Grinder", "Into My Thing", "Wild Cherry", "Fantasy Woman", "Straw In the Wind", and "Together Whatever". ~ Dusty Groove


The language of saxophonist Nat Birchall has always been pretty cosmic – but this time around, he seems to be reaching out even more – working on these long-spun tracks with a really unique quartet! The group features sublime work on harmonium from Adam Fairhall – an instrument that we don't normally associate with jazz, but which works perfectly in Birchall's slow-building spiritual style – really shading in the tunes with otherworldly sounds which are then cut through by Nat's searing, soulful work on tenor! The album moves at a meditative pace, but there's also plenty going on, too – and the tracks draw plenty of energy from the work of Michael Bardon on bass and Andy Hay on drums and percussion. We've been following Nat on his musical journey for over a decade, and he's never let us down – and this time around he takes us to even farther reaches – on titles that include "Dervish", "A Prayer For", "Man From Varanasi", and "Humility". ~ Dusty Groove

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