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FREESTYLE RECORDS

Following a move to London and an immersion in the city's deep house scene, Dan Berkson's subsequent rediscovery of his earliest musical foundations and the drawing of inspiration from London's buzzing contemporary jazz scene would lead to Dialogues - an accomplished and rewarding body of work pulled together during his final days in London before relocation to California.

"It was inevitable that Dan Berkson would make a jazz album like Dialogues: joyful, danceable, entertaining, driven by the pleasure principle, and filled with virtuosity. It represents Berkson's experiences in London, where jazz is a living, breathing, dancing scene. It's his love letter to the city, bristling with British talent such as bassist Andrea di Biase (Heidi Vogell, Maria Chiara Argiro, Bruno Heinen) and drummer Jon Scott (Kairos 4Tet, Sons Of Kemet, Mulatu Astatke) and recorded in his final days in the city before relocating to California. It's also rich with history: the musical journey that brought him to this point covers almost 40 years and 4,000 miles.

Berkson received lessons from Chicago boogie-woogie veteran Erwin Helfer - who in turn had learned alongside foundational legends such as Mahalia Jackson and Glover Compton. In 2001 he came to the UK, throwing himself into the deep house scene of East London, his duo with James What signing to Steve Bug's legendary Poker Flat.

But eventually he felt that he'd achieved what he could in the house format. Rediscovering the piano and discovering that jazz provided him the opportunity to keep learning, he enrolled in Trinity College in South London just as South London's jazz scene was exploding into the public consciousness.

Dialogues is a jazz album, not an electronic one – but all the groove-based influences, from the rootsy blues and ragtime of his youth, through the funk he played at college and the house he imbibed in London can be heard, as can his love of the studio as an instrument and mixdowns that suit a club soundsystem. Detroit dons Theo Parrish and Moodymann are every bit as important to this record as Charlie Haden, Carla Bley, Keith Jarrett, Ornette Coleman, Jimmy Giuffre, and Herbie Hancock. There's 50s and 60s cool modernism (just listen to the elegant ripples of "Sketches"), there's 70s funk fusion ("Unity" kicks things off with a spring in its step), and of course there's the pumping blues heart of "Live Bait". Above all else, though, it's a personal document: a life of music and collaboration crystalised in a magical, transitional moment. Where Dan goes next musically is as uncertain as anything in these times... but this one record tells you everything you need to know about where he's been."

TRACK LISTING

1. Unity
2. Momentum
3. Maggie's Last Day
4. Live Bait (For Dave Wickins)
5. Remember Me
6. Sketches
7. The Court

This now classic (and highly sought after) LP from 2014 finally sees a long overdue vinyl repress!

A wide ranging, eclectic and progressive musical outlook has always been the Lack of Afro approach. His latest material followed suit as he harnessed disparate musical styles ranging from funk, soul and hip-hop to create a contemporary yet vintage musical escapade of superb songs.

On his 4th studio album for Freestyle Records, the influences, sounds and musical textures are more eclectic than ever. Below, Adam talks us through some of the his favourite moments on 'Music For Adverts'.

First out of the box is the steaming funk killer Freedom: This time around I knew I didn't want an intro or a skit to start the album - I needed a strong, heavy opener - I had the melody for the chorus floating around in my head. It was then just a case of working with Jack Tyson - Charles on the rest of it and getting the vibe that the song required.

Long time Lack Of Afro collaborator Herbal T features on Brown Sugar: I had an idea of doing a disco track with an emcee on it, which you don't really hear often. This is actually the first time I've sung on a Lack of Afro track, adding my backing vocal warblings on the choruses! Special shout to George Cooper for the howlin' Hammond solo at the end too.

Of the gritty instrumental No Guts, No Glory Adam explains: I wanted to include 3 instrumentals as I always have a soft spot for them & it's what people know me for. The 'choir' was recorded by layering up my own voice in different octaves, nothing is auto-tuned, its all real. The studio allows me to do stuff like that but I could never sing live - I'll leave that to the proper vocalists.

'Proper vocalist' Jack Tyson - Charles again features on The Gypsy, which as Adam explains uses the classic song format to great effect: One of my favourite LOA tunes to date, Its in keeping with the album mission statement of wanting to write 'proper songs' instead of just grooves.

Another supremely radio friendly & catchy composition is the track which introduces Juliette Ashby; Making It Right, of which Adam informs us; the initial idea came from my good friend Flevans. George Cooper & I added the changes, Rory Simmons arranged the strings & Juliette Ashby came up with a really great vocal. It's most definitely different than a lot of LOA material, but that is no bad thing - sometimes you just have to get outside of your comfort zone and try new stuff.

The truth is that Music For Adverts is stuffed with beautiful audio gems of all varieties - from those 'proper songs', though tough nut, hard hip hop jams, deeply grooving funk - Lack Of Afro has mastery of many genres, production & various instruments, which is why this album is a fully formed tour de force through contemporary soul.

TRACK LISTING

1. Freedom (feat. Jack Tyson-Charles)
2. One For The Trouble
3. Recipe For Love (feat. Jack Tyson-Charles)
4. Coco
5. Brown Sugar (feat. Herbal T)
6. The Gypsy (feat. Jack Tyson-Charles)
7. The Contender
8. Missing Me (feat. Jack Tyson-Charles)
9. No Guts No Glory
10. Making It Right (feat. Juliette Ashby)
11. On The Road (feat. Jack Tyson-Charles)
12. Here We Go Again (feat. Wax, Herbal T & EOM)

Australian 9-piece Spiritual Jazz group Menagerie announce their highly anticipated third album 'Many Worlds'. Menagerie is the Melbourne-based Jazz ensemble founded by producer, songwriter, guitarist, DJ and recording artist Lance Ferguson, also the driving force behind The Bamboos, Lanu, Rare Groove Spectrum and Machines Always Win.

Recorded at Union Street Studio by award-winning engineer John Castle, 'Many Worlds' features some of Australia's finest musicians, including pianist Mark Fitzgibbon (a regular performer at Gilles Peterson and Patrick Forge's original Dingwalls sessions), drummer Daniel Farrugia and renowned saxophonist Phil Noy (The Bamboos).

Inspired by both the post-Coltrane generation of the 70's, labels like Strata-East, Impulse! and Tribe, along with the current 'New Wave Of Jazz', Menagerie aligns with the world of Kamasi Washington, Shabaka Hutchings and Nubya Garcia, whilst also bringing their own unique twist.

Lead single 'Free Thing' leans heavily into the spiritual side of the band's sound. The hypnotic spoken word-poem is evocative of The Last Poets, an earthy yet futuristic meditation on the universal theme of freedom itself, set to a backdrop of insistent percussion, double bass and brooding piano voicings.

'Hope' carries forward the sound of spiritual jazz into the 21st century, with its epic vocal harmonies and melodic fanfare, it is an uplifting anthem for this period of global worldwide upheaval and uncertainty.The title track 'Many Worlds' is a perfect example of how Menagerie incorporates their myriad influences, but manage to create a sound that feels uncannily fresh and contemporary. Book-ended by ambient, ethereal sections, the slow-burning groove builds over its 11-minute duration to create a standout crossover track.


TRACK LISTING

1. Hope
2. Many Worlds
3. Free Thing
4. Mountain Song
5. Hymn Of The Turning Stone
6. Quantum Blues

Omar Lyefook MBE is without doubt, one of the greatest soul music talents the United Kingdom has produced in the last 40 years. If anyone has doubts about that, then they might want to consider the list of legendary artists who happily line up to collaborate with him musically, or simply sing his praises - from Stevie Wonder, the late Leon Ware, Erykah Badu, Common, through to Carleen Anderson, D'Angelo, and Soul II Soul's Caron Wheeler, Angie Stone and U.K. artists Courtney Pine, Rodney P, Kele LeRoc, Natasha Watts and Estelle, all appreciate his truly original and unique voice, musicianship and songwriting talent.

When asked to reflect on his long, successful, critically acclaimed and deeply influential career that shows no signs of slowing up, Omar said "I feel blessed. I try to keep things moving and evolving, and when I finish an album, I always put my heart and soul into it. I'm looking at it from an outsider's point of view, because I never really see myself making the music. It's like I'm the vessel and somebody's controlling what I do, I just happen to be the one that gets the praise for it".

That modest statement just re-enforces the fact that Omar is simply a one off, a genuinely unique artist. That is a bold claim, but his sound is so immediately identifiable, that you will know you are hearing an Omar track within seconds - and that is the stamp of true originality.

This collection features many of his classic collaborations, from his evergreen worldwide anthem There's Nothing Like This, It's So, the dancefloor destroying banger inspired by the amalgam of sounds Omar heard at The Notting Hill Carnival. Also included are lesser known, slept on tracks from across his long career - and the exclusive, previously unheard tracks Pass It On ft Terri Walker and Long Time Coming.

TRACK LISTING

1. Pass It On (feat. Terri Walker)
2. There's Nothing Like This
3. I Don't Mind The Waiting
4. Last Request
5. Music
6. Who Chooses The Seasons (feat. Carleen Anderson)
7. Best By Far
8. Winner
9. Outside
10. Little Boy
11. This Is Not A Love Song
12. Long Time Coming
13. I Guess
14. Be Thankful (feat. Erykah Badu)
15. Tell Me
16. Syleste (Lounge Lizzard Mix)
17. Feeling You (feat. Stevie Wonder)
18. It's So
19. Kiss It Right
20. Come On (feat. Kele LeRoc)
21. The Man
22. Treat You (feat. Caron Wheeler)
23. Fuck War, Make Love
24. Bully (feat. The Scratch Professer)
25. I Love Being With You
26. Simplify
27. Vicky's Tune (feat. Robert Glasper & Ty)
28. Gave My Heart (feat. Leon Ware)
29. Doobie Doobie Doo
30. Feeds My Mind (feat. The Floacist)
31. Insatiable (feat. Natasha Watts)
32. De Ja Vu (feat. Mayra Andrade)
33. I Want It To Be 

Menagerie

The Arrow Of Time

The current resurgence of jazz in all its' forms has certainly been impossible to ignore in recent times - from the chart-bound, mainstream crooning of Gregory Porter, to the left field 'jazz not jazz' soundscapes of Kamasi Washington, Moses Boyd, Nubya Garcia and Snarky Puppy proves this is a worldwide phenomenon. One artist who has been been ploughing this furrow in the southern hemisphere for longer than most is Lance Ferguson. As the driving force behind The Bamboos, Cookin' On 3 Burners, Lanu, and the Black Feeling series, these are the varied and versatile projects on which he has built an enviable reputation.

Menagerie 'They Shall Inherit' saw the light of day in 2012 (Tru Thoughts Records) and established the fact that jazz of the contemporary type could reach back to it's essential roots and present itself, refreshed and vital for a contemporary audience.

Lance himself explains: "The Arrow Of Time' draws its inspiration conceptually from the themes of space exploration, human evolution and the future of humankind. It's pretty big stuff to be underpinning an album of modal Jazz tunes - but the main message is one of hope, and I hope that comes across in the music"

Late 2017 saw the 2 track album sampler 'Evolution/Arrow Of Time' create a genuine buzz of anticipation, being playlisted on Jazz FM, and also supported by Jamie Cullum (BBC Radio 2) and both Don Letts & Gilles Peterson on their BBC 6 Music shows - having as it does the spirit of deep jazz, but combining an accessible sound that reached way beyond the usual jazz hungry audience - due in one part to Evolution's immensely catchy hooks, with the voice of Fallon Williams focusing the listeners attention on the philosophical themes Lance highlighted above. Now the album, laid out in its' entirety can be experienced, attempting to encapsulate the music with the written word feels like a somewhat futile exercise, so it is best to consider Lance Fergusons' final thoughts about its inspiration, influences and ongoing appeal.

STAFF COMMENTS

Millie says: This caught my attention straight away; the style of jazz-not-jazz is right up my street and anything that Giles Peterson recommends I’m all over it. The track Evolution is just everything I need on a record like this, it can transport you to the vibe and hub of a late night jazz bar.

TRACK LISTING

1. Evolution
2. The Arrow Of Time
3. Escape Velocity
4. Spiral
5. Nova 


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