funk . soul . jazz . nu-jazz


Genre pick of the week Cover of The Epic by Kamasi Washington.
The story begins with a man on high. He is an old man, a warrior, and the guardian to the gates of a city. Two miles below his mountainous perch, he observes a dojo, where a group of young men train night and day. Eventually, the old man expects a challenger to emerge. He hopes for the day of his destruction, for this is the cycle of life.

Finally the doors fly open and three young men burst forth to challenge the old master. The first man is quick, but not strong enough. The second is quick, and strong, but not wise enough. The third stands tall, and overtakes the master. The Changing of the Guard has at long last been achieved.

But then the old man wakes up. He looks down at the dojo and realizes he’s been daydreaming. The dojo below exists, but everyone in training is yet a child. By the time they grow old enough to challenge the old man, he has disappeared.

This is, in essence, both a true story and a carefully constructed musical daydream, one that will further unfold in a brazen release from young Los Angeles jazz giant, composer, and bandleader Kamasi Washington. 'The Epic' is unlike anything jazz has seen, and not just because it emanates from the boundary-defying Brainfeeder, which isn’t so much a label in the traditional sense as it is an unfurling experiment conducted by the underground producer Flying Lotus who has featured Washington on his albums 'Cosmogramma' and 'You’re Dead!'.

'The Epic' is a 172-minute, three-volume set that includes a 32-piece orchestra, a 20-person choir, and 17 songs overlaid with a compositional score written by Washington. Pulsing underneath is an otherworldly 10-piece band, each member of which is individually regarded as among the best young musicians on the planet - including bassist Thundercat and his brother, drummer Ronald Bruner Jr., bassist (yes, there are two) Miles Mosley, drummer Tony Austin (of course there are two), keyboard player Brandon Coleman, pianist Cameron Graves, and trombonist Ryan Porter. Patrice Quinn’s ethereal vocals round out the ensemble.

The band are all from Los Angeles, mostly South Central, and its members - who call themselves variously “The Next Step” and the “The West Coast Get Down” - have been congregating since they were barely teenagers in a backyard shack in Inglewood. Washington, 32, has known Bruner since he was two. The rest met, at various stages, by the time they were in high school. The hours they have put into the music, playing together and practicing alone, total cumulatively in the tens of thousands.

“Nothing compares to these guys,” says Barbara Sealy, the former West Coast director of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, who has championed Kamasi and his compatriots from the beginning. “I challenge any group to go out on stage with them and see if they can keep up with it… Kamasi is at the top of his game, and only getting better.” “These young guys,” the rapper Common says, “remind me of why I love music.”

And the story 'The Epic' tells, without words but rather through some combination of magic, mastery, and sheer force of imagination, is the story of Kamasi Washington and the Next Step and their collective mission: to remove jazz from the shelf of relics and make it new, unexpected, and dangerous again. They seek to both honour and alter tradition: as 'The Epic'’s opening track announces, they are the “Changing of the Guard”. The sound can be felt like flames, sometimes waving in the coziness of a fireplace, in other moments sweeping everything around like a backdraft. But Kamasi is always in control of the burning.


LP Box Set Info: Now available on three 180g discs in artworked 3mm spined sleeves housed in a rigid board outer slipcase with digital download codes. Half speed cut by Matt Colton at Alchemy, the package includes two 12” poster inserts featuring exclusive artwork by KC Woolf Haxton plus story adaptation and calligraphy by Kenturah Davis.

A treat for anyone who does their dancing at the soulful end of the spectrum here, as house legend Ron Trent takes on executive production duties for this sumptuous serving of modern jazz-funk. Drawing inspiration from the likes of Atmosphere, Dinosaur L and Raw Silk, and in the good company of Ron Trent and Jonesy, multi-instrumental maestro Jared Hines took to the studio and laid down five body moving, soul soothing tracks inflected with just a touch of the power cosmic. Opening cut "Mother Confessor" sees the ensemble lock the dial on an intergalactic broadcast of jazz-funk classics, riffing on the "Dancing In Outer Space" bassline and "Wood, Brass and Steel" melody, while the backmasked vocal and thick film of cosmic slop provide their own psychedelic shimmer. Next up, our sonic explorers harness the synthetic majesty of a lost West End classic for the dubbed out disco/boogie sounds of "The Gift", a fast paced peak timer which bounds out the stacks like a Francois K mix of a Sharon Redd stormer. "Nicci" rounds out the A-side with an emotive chord progression and some wild guitar solos whilst retaining the full phat funk of the previous two cuts. Over on the flipside, "People's Palace (Devotion)" sees A Band Called Flash set phasers for stun and head off on a intergalactic dub disco excursion complete with head fucking fx, killer rhythm breaks and a euphoric 'loveboat' chorus. Last but by no means least, "Sliph" offers a low slung take on the kind of bass heavy jazz funk the Parisians jacked for the first wave of French Touch. If the on point percussion and infectious bassline weren't enough to get fingers a-popping and feet a-stomping, then Andrew Zhang's outrageous rhodes solo should take you to Cloud Nine. It's already getting major props from Piccadilly staff Michael and Patch and is set to fly off the shelves, so don't dilly dally.

Dazzle rolled deep. Very deep. In the 1980s, it wasn't unusual for the Milwaukee-based group to show up at various Midwest night clubs in a caravan of 30-40 cars and vans. Their live following was hard won over a career that spanned 20+ years, many line up changes, and a handful of project names.

Donald Smith, band leader, was there the whole time, first as founder of the Ghetto Players, an early 70s nine-piece which also included siblings Michael, Ronald, and Charles. They played hard funk in the style of early Kool And The Gang, and managed to catch the eye of local Milwaukee R&B music entrepreneur Cobie Joe Payne. When the Ghetto Players disbanded in the early-mid 70s, Donald soon put together a new group, C On The Funk (the 'C' referring to lead vocalist and sibling Charles), under Payne's tutelage. Sister Lorrie Smith came in as the drummer, the line-up being fleshed out by brothers David and Melvin Johnson, and friend Robert Mitchell. After a few years as a strictly live attraction, they drove to Chicago and produced a single, "In the Disco" / "A Place" for Payne's small record label Sweet Thang Records in 1980. Lacking the financial backing needed to supply the local R&B disk jockey's "promotional fees" , this single sadly languished in obscurity, gathering dust inside the local tavern jukeboxes and manilla promo envelopes that comprised Payne's DIY distribution network.

C On The Funk were travelling the Mid West extensively at this point, and making some important friends on the road. Ike Wiley Jr. of the Dazz Band / Kinsman Dazz took particular interest and the band was re-christened Dazzle, partially as a tie-in with Dazz, partially to embrace the new sounds that would distinguish the 70s disco scene from what record collectors and DJs would now refer to as the boogie era. There no doubt was a stigma attached to the word ‘disco’ as the eighties began, and as we see in this collection C On The Funk's "In the Disco" is remixed and transformed into the psychedelic synth instrumental of Dazzle's "Disco's Out", a title which embodies both the next-step approach Smith and company were pushing for, and humorously comments on the state of black dance music in the early 1980s. The Dazzle recording, done in Chicago in 1982, updated the sound and featured an expanded line up, most notably a second synth player (Charles Washington), and a percussionist/second lead vocalist (Greg McDonald). The added synth textures and deep percussive grooves give the Dazzle recordings an elegant late night vibe that resonate just as well in a good pair of headphones as they do on the dance floor. The trance inducing cough syrup-warble of "Explain" may best exemplify this here. Sadly, a pressing flaw in the 12" halted production and promotion, and the EP and the songs within were lost to the ages. The group, having done a much better line in the live music business, followed that path instead all the way to the early 90s.

Elephant9 With Reine Fiske

Silver Mountain

    It´s not often a "jazz" band take the big step from the club scene to a 1300 capacity rock venue like Oslo´s Rockefeller. But then again, Elephant9 is not your ordinary jazz band, often being named as Norway´s best live band - surely quite rare for an instrumental band - they are equally popular in jazz and rock circles. On this, their fourth studio album, Elephant9 once again join forces with Reine Fiske - the quite excellent Swedish guitarist from Dungen and The Amazing - for an epic slice of mindblowing modern rock´n´jazz prog psychedelia.

    "Silver Mountain" is their finest album so far, where all the parts fall into place. The core trio is still Ståle Storløkken, Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen and Torstein Lofthus, three of Norway´s finest musicians. Guest Reine Fiske brings another dimension to the band and is now so integrated that he might as well be considered a permanent member."Silver Mountain" is an epic double album containing five tracks between 10 and 22 minutes, four tracks being originals in addition to the most spaced out version of "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" you´re likely to encounter.

    Ståle Storløkken (Hammond Organ, Fender Rhodes, Minimoog, Prophet t8, piano) is widely considered to be the most inventive keyboard player from the fertile Norwegian jazz scene, his playing with bands like Supersilent, Humcrush, Motorpsycho, Terje Rypdal and countless others being firm testament to this.

    Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen (bass, acoustic guitars) is since long a member of popular rock group Big Bang as well as Ketil Møster´s quartet Møster!

    Torstein Lofthus (drums) is a most versatile drummer who has done a lot of session work as well as playing in jazz, soul and rock bands, most notably blackjazzers Shining.

    Reine Fiske (electric and acoustic guitars) is a member of Dungen and The Amazing and has guested on two recent Motorpsycho albums. He is also heavily involved in the fine Swedish record label Subliminal Sounds. 

    The Haggis Horns

    What Comes To Mind

    The UK's favourite funk/soul brothers release their long awaited third album "What Comes To Mind" worldwide on the 2nd Oct 2015. This one drops on their own independant record label Haggis Records and features a host of special guest artists including vocalists Lucinda Slim (Zap Mama), John McCallum (Corinne Bailey Rae band) and John Turrell (Smoove & Turrell) plus New mastersounds bass player Pete Shand and UK conga/percussion legend Snowboy.

    "What Comes To Mind" is packed full of feelgood funk, soul and boogie that pays homage to the band's musical heroes of the 1970's - Kool & The Gang, Donald Byrd, The Blackbyrds, The Mizell Brothers & Earth Wind & Fire. There's plenty of dancefloor filling funk for the clubs - "Outta My Head", "It Ain't What You Got", "I Can't Stop The Feeling" - plus heavy funk instrumentals like "Return Of The Haggis" where the band get the chance to stretch out and cut loose on the solo sections. For deep soul heads, check the slower tempo gospel tinged vocal track "Give Me Something Better". British soul past or present doesn't come much better than this!

    Matthew Halsall & The Gondwana Orchestra

    Into Forever

    Over the course of five albums, Manchester based trumpeter, composer, arranger and band-leader Matthew Halsall has carved out a niche for himself on the UK music scene as one of it's brightest talents. His languid, soulful music has won friends from Jamie Cullum and Gilles Peterson to Jazz FM and Mojo as well as an ever-growing international following. His new album 'Into Forever', puts the spotlight on Halsall the composer, arranger and producer. Halsall draws on a diverse range of influences from Alice Coltrane, Dorothy Ashby, Phil Cohran and Leon Thomas to the more contemporary sounds of The Cinematic Orchestra, Max Richter and Nils Frahm to deliver his most complete recording to date. 'Into Forever' features renowned Manchester based soul poet Josephine Oniyama and rising star vocalist Bryony Jarman-Pinto (Werkha) as well as regular collaborators, flautist Lisa Mallett, harpist Rachael Gladwin, koto player Keiko Kitamura, pianist Taz Modi, bassist Gavin Barras and drummer Luke Flowers (The Cinematic Orchestra) and two percussionists Sam Bell and Chris Cruiks. The result is arguably Halsall's finest record, asublime melding of stripped back soulful funk and deep, minimalist, spiritual jazz, that will take you on a journey deep into forever!

    Perhaps the most complete footballer of the modern era, the man nicknamed ‘Zizou’ won everything there was to win with France and Real Madrid. “Football was the easy part”, he stated, when asked about his childhood in the ghettos of Marseille. “Music was important”.

    If Zizou were ever to grace this English spa town in the West Midlands, he might find two young men chipping (or ‘dinking’) a football back and forth with a set of goalposts between them. They are trying to land the ball on the crossbar. For one of those men, football is important. Music is the easy part.

    Bastien Keb is a prodigiously talented multi-instrumentalist, who makes a living writing music for TV and film. A guitarist first and foremost, you’ll hear him play trumpet, bass, drums, flute and more on this debut record, as well as layering his voice to strangely moving effect. His music belies a love for Curtis Mayfield and Sun Ra, though his voice might suggest Bon Iver - a world away, but here it makes perfect sense. He channels 80s soul with his bass, the New Orleans of The Meters with his drums. He looks to Broadcast and Flying Lotus for direction: how do you assimilate such diverse influences, and come up with something wholly modern, and wholly your own?

    Bastien Keb tries to hit the bar one more time before sunset calls time on the game. He senses movement from the corner of his eye. There’s a man at the other end of the pitch. Tall, graceful, with a shaved head and flawless control, the man dinks the ball against the bar, time after time. It can’t be...can it?

    Piccadilly Records

    Mono Colour Print - Black Tote Bag

      One colour 'mono' print (white) of the Piccadilly Records logo on a black tote bag.

      Second Re$$urrection

      Keep On Keeping On / Wise Up

      Two unreleased disco funk bangers from Joe Tex's backing band The Second Re$$urrection. Dug out from Sonny Cravers Stanson Records archive, The band did release one ultra rare disco / modern 45 which goes for $3000+ all day long also coming to Athens Of The North soon.

      One of the most widely travelled, widely heard unknown groups in the world. A band of serious funk musicians who have shared the stage with the elite of the elite. They have shared the stage with everyone from Jean Carne and Rufus & Chaka Khan, to The Isley Brothers and Shalamar. They won equal acclaim when they played alongside Earth, Wind & Fire at The CBS Family Affair. They performed at New York's Rialto Theatre, The Apollo, and toured East and West Germany. They performed for the movie premier of Rudy Ray Moore's, Petey Wheatstraw - The Devil's Son-In-Law at Chicago's Regal Theatre.

      The original name of the group was The Six Degrees South based in Lawton Oklahoma. A nomadic group, they completed a 3 year trek primarily booked at military bases across the nation. They also played a variety of college and university towns, ski-lodges, various clubs and hotel ballrooms. They initially dabbled in recording producing a vinyl 45' single entitled, 'Loving You Is Too Far Out'. Upon returning to home-base the group met the legendary soul singer, Joe Tex. Being into funk, we were not all that familiar with his soul sound. He explained what he wanted to do and the end results of what could be accomplished. The band, already being self-contained and autonomous seized the opportunity to utilize not only Tex's fame in the music / radio world but his label connections. Unknowingly, this group almost single-handedly launched Tex's career back into the spotlight allowing him to re-emerge and re-invent himself after a 5 year sabbatical.

      They played, wrote and produced-in-part Joe Tex's 'Bumps & Bruises' album containing the mega-hit, 'Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman'. This culminated into Tex's first gold album, won a Grammy nomination and was #86 on Billboard's 1978 year-end chart.

      On the flip side the band's own LP was shelved after the single "Smoke In The Disco" did not live up to Stanson Records expectations. As is often the way, it later became a huge modern / northern soul record and is coveted by collectors all over the world.

      Gadzouks! F Communications have only gone and reissued the dopest, deepest, jazziest house record ever made! If you've never heard this pearl, then get your headphones out pronto because St. Germain is about to change your life. Undoubtedly the forefather of Motor City Drum Ensemble, S3A, Max Graef and all those sample weaving house heads knocking around at the moment, Ludovich Navarre set the benchmark impossibly high with his 1995 debut, a collection of three essential 12"s which changed the musical map on their release. It's fair to say that few producers have come close to matching the dexturous combination of well chosen samples and virtuoso live playing St Germain delivered on his debut. The blissful loft vibe of opening cut "Deep In It" soon gives way to the deeper than deep soulful sound of "Thank U Mum (4 Everything You Did) and the flute and wah beatdown of "Street Scene (4 Shazz)", offering diversity whilst keeping the quality sky high. The blue note blending jazz house classic "Easy To Remember" is the finest backroom tune ever made while the slinky and slow burning "Sentimental Mood" instantly brings to mind the unsuccessful attempts of its many imitators. "What's New?" marries a Murk styled bassline with filtered keys and cool horns, perfectly bridging the gap between America's deep house revolution and the imminent French touch explosion, while "Dub Experience II" gives the dancers a break and the smokers a treat. Last but not least Ludo lets rip with the Moonboots approved head nod of "Forget It", a groovesome winner loved by house heads, jazz cats and the Balearic beards alike. Flawless from start to finish, this is a record I come back to again and again, and so should you.

      The Tonistics

      Holding On / Dimona (Spiritual Capital Of The World)

      The first time Athens Of The North head honcho DJ Fryer heard 'Holding On' it was being played by Adrian Gibson, booker / manager / DJ for the London Jazz Cafe (and Piccadilly Records mailorder customer of old) in its heyday in the early 2000s. Fryer thought the track was some crazy obscusre early Jackson Five 45 (as you will too if you give it a spin - this is prepubescent soul-funk of the highest order). As Fryers eyes were on 45s at the time the track passed him by until the Numero Group included it on their fabulous 'Soul Messengers' compilation (essential purchase if you don't own). After quite a bit of badgering, Numero co-owner Rob Sevier let DJ Fryer release 'Holding On' and 'Dimona (Spiritual Capital Of The World)' on Athens Of The North as a 7" - the first time either track has been on a 45.

      Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators

      Happiness In Every Style

      Nicole Willis rolls out with her third album made together with The Soul Investigators "Happiness In Every Style". As the name suggests, the new album will offer variety and tilt towards a more positive note after the murky "Tortured Soul" from two years back.

      This means Nicole and the boys have made things a bit more soothing for the listener, offering upbeat modern soul and even embrace more sophisticated melodies alongside their highly evolved raw funk sound. To get a taste of this, one only has to put on "Let's Communicate" or "One In a Million" to have their hands clapping and toes tapping in no time, or respectively, witness the dance floor explode. From minor key ballads such as "Thief In The Night" to the unapologetically poppy "Angel", the new album is bound to bring to the hearts of humans in every shade and style.

      Whether you know Nicole Willis from before or not does not hold any weight here. After hearing her with The Soul Investigators on this new album, you will know they are for real, and out to offer you everything you need to fill up your soul supply. With Nicole's insightful lyrics and the band's hard-hitting music you are in good care.

      Young-Holt Unlimited

      Soulful Strut / Wack Wack

      Wonderful fully remastered reissue of these two soul-jazz / jazz-dance nuggets from Young Holt Unlimited.

      On side A we get 'Soulful Strut' which is an instrumental version of Barbara Acklin's 'A I The Same Gilr', but with a jazzy piano line instead of a vocal. A surefire classic! Flip it for the equally brilliant 'Wack Wack', a killer jazz-dance number that was a favourite on the London mod scene right through to Gilles Peterson's sessions at Dingwalls and beyond. With its simple rolling groove, hooky piano line and "wack wack" vocal, this is a floor-filler if ever there was one.

      Re-released on a dinked 7" for 2015 in full collaboration with Brunswick Records, and complete with replica label artwork.

      Various Artists

      Nik Weston Presents Lost Soul & Funk Gems Volume Four

      Mukatsuku digs deep again to bring us two scorchers as the last remnants of summer makes way to an oncoming autumn... On the A-side we have Courtial featuring vocals by Errol Knowles, a modern soul dancefloor gem of excellence from the San Francisco Bay Area championed by the likes of Snowboy & Keb Darge at various funk nights of the 90s. With a killer piano intro, fat back drums and those dope vocals, it just doesn't get much better than this! An original minted copy of the 45 would set you back a couple of hundred British pounds (not pounds from any other country, just UK Sterling). On the flipside Sounds Of The City Experience deliver peak time funk instrumental workout 'Getting Down' with furious drums and brass with a soundtrack feel to rival Quincy Jones circia They Call Me Mr Tibbs or Johnny Pate circia Shaft In Africa.

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