Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Twenty Twelve


Another year has passed.  And another week has passed since then.  It seems that I should mention some of my favourite albums of 2012 before it gets any later.  I spend most of my time digging for the records of yesteryear, and consequently have become an appalling Johnny-Come-Lately to current music (as well as to holiday-themed blog posts).   But despite this handicap, I've selected some beloved new pressings for your consideration.


1.

For ten solid years Canada's own Souljazz Orchestra has celebrated our nation's vibrant multiculturalism through its mix of African, Cuban, Caribbean, Latin and Tropical sounds, all topped with unrivalled horns, steeped in analog keys and imbued with deep jazz roots.  Their most recently album, Solidarity, is a more than worthy follow up to 2009's illuminating Rising Sun, both released on Strut UK.   You (and I) missed their NuJazz Festival date at Wrongbar on November 9th but we can still rent a camper van and catch the tail end of their North American tour on January 19th in hometown Ottawa.  Road trip!  As with their music, the accolades for this album have been intercontinental.  They even received bops and props from BBC's emissary of rare grooves, Gilles Peterson.









2.

Fiercer than Pepper LeBeija with her weave pulled out, Voguing and the The House Ballroom Scene of New York City 1976-1996 Volume 1 and Volume 2 throw serious shade on the rest of Soul Jazz Records' already essential catalogue.  This amalgam of anthemic disco and hard tribal house tracks defined a generation of gay, Latino and African-American metropolitan culture and is literally the soundtrack playing in the background of Jennie Livingston's fabulous and heartbreaking drag queen documentary Paris is Burning.  For those only familiar with voguing via Madonna, this dance style blossomed uptown in Harlem and fully bloomed downtown at infamous clubs like The Paradise Garage and Sound Factory, where drag queens would drench themselves in furs and vintage Dior, all while striking glamorous fashion poses between balletic urban dance steps.  This two volume set was curated by the legendary Junior Vasquez and contains liner notes from Tim Lawrence, author of one of my favourite books, Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-70.  And if that wasn't enough reading a bitch for you, there's even an accompanying monograph of Chantal Regnault's photography.









3.

My favourite albums are often those I play in the wee, small hours of the morning, when I can give music my undivided attention and when trucks aren't idling outside my apartment window.  The Robert Glasper Experiment's Black Radio is one of those beautiful, soulful albums best enjoyed with Sunday's black coffee.  Glasper's fourth album is a moving, fusion of neo-soul, hip hop and jazz that takes me back Guru's Jazzmatazz.  So who's stopping by this block party?  Alongside Glasper on keys, Casey Benjamin on reeds, Derrick Hodge on bass and Chris Dave on drums, are truth-sayers Yasiin Bey (aka The Mighty Mos Def), Erykah Badu, Bilal, Lupe Fiasco and Lilah Hathaway, who does Sade very proud.  Every cut is both intelligent and elegant, but especially the otherworldly extended cover of Nirvana's Teen Spirit.  It could have been the b-side to Herbie Hancock's "Trust Me."  When Blue Note picks up a contemporary artist, who isn't Nora Jones, you know you're getting top shelf jazz.






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