Words by Mark Sampson
A multicultural album recorded by a group of international expats and Canadian natives on a surplus Tascam eight-track tape machine bought from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police… At the very least, the premise is intriguing. The Souljazz Orchestra have been together for ten years now. Sung in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Wolof, Solidarity is their paean to love, peace and positive social change. There are suitable shades of Fela’s ‘Water No Get Enemy’ in ‘Bilinay’, the brassy stormer that kicks off this rousing collection.
Guitarist Rômmel Ribeiro’s Brazilian heritage infuses ‘Cartão Postal’; the roots-reggae feel of ‘Jericho’ and the infectious, dancehall-tinged ‘Kingpin’ reflect vocalist Slim Moore’s Jamaican origins; and other diverse Caribbean influences are at work in ‘Tanbou Lou’ and the boisterous ‘Ya Basta’. Otherwise, though, it’s the sound and spirit of percussionist El Hadji M’baye’s West Africa that predominates. Indeed, there are worthy covers of ‘Kelen Ati Leen’ and ‘Nijaay’, both from Orchestra Baobab’s 1970s back catalogue.
And what about that Tascam from the ex-Mounties? Unlike the orchestra’s fine first release for Strut, Rising Sun, which was instrumental, jazzier and digitally polished, – Solidarity seeks to recapture an era when glorious analogue ruled the record shops. It works. This is rough, raw and exhilarating. The Souljazz Orchestra will be touring Europe soon. Meanwhile, this is their taster. Go on, treat yourself.