Afroroots Explosion

The Souljazz Orchestra – Solidarity
The Souljazz Orchestra

Solidarity (Strut Records Strut 086CD, 2012)

The Souljazz Orchestra, one of the great African-diaspora rooted world music bands, is based in Ottawa, Canada. Their latest album, titled Solidarityy, takes the group in a new direction from their previous album by incorporating vocals and electric instruments.

The band’s musical style on Solidarity is difficult to categorize. The Souljazz Orchestra is known for breaking boundaries and Solidarity features a tasty mix of dance oriented Afro-rooted musical styles. The guest vocalists sing in various languages: English, Portuguese, Spanish and Wolof.

Solidarity opens with vibrant Afrobeat, showcasing the brass section of the band. The festive Portuguese vocals and beats of ‘Cartão Postal’ will make your think you are in Bahia, watching one of Carlinho Brown’s projects parading down the street.

The percussive ‘Ya Basta,’ sung in Spanish is a much more serious affair, transmitting politically progressive messages, denouncing authoritarian policies.

Solidarity also features excellent reggae with pieces such as the roots reggae song ‘Jericho’ and the dub reggae Kingpin. There are also pieces that sound downright African, like the Wolof Afropop of Tanbou Lou and the West African blues of Nijaay.

The Souljazz Orchestra
Photo by Alexandre Mattar
The Souljazz Orchestra cast includes Philippe Lafrenière on drums, percussion, vocals; Zakari Frantz on alto saxophone, flute, percussion, vocals; Pierre Chrétien on vintage keyboards, percussion, vocals; Ray Murray on baritone saxophone, percussion, vocals; Marielle Rivard on percussion, vocals; and Steve Patterson on tenor saxophone, percussion, vocals.

The album’s guest lineup includes Senegalese griot singer, percussionist and songwriter El Hadji “Élage” M’baye, now resident in Gatineau, Québec; Brazilian singer, songwriter and guitarist Rômmel Teixeira Ribeiro, now living in downtown Ottawa; Canadian vocalist and songwriter Slim Moore, born in Overbrook, Ontario to Jamaican parents; skilled jazz trumpeter Nicholas Dyson; adaptable singer Amelia Leclair on backing vocals.

The electric direction of Solidarity allowed The Souljazz Orchestra to bring back some of their dusty, forgotten musical instruments from the attic: an ancient vibrato-heavy transistor organ, pawn shop hollow-body electric guitars, a psychedelic tape-echo machine, a resonant surf-guitar spring reverb unit, even an old Italian-made Elka electric piano rescued from a garbage can. The album was recorded onto a Tascam 8-track tape machine inherited from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police at a surplus sale. The ensuing sound of Solidarity is grainy, low-budget and analog.

The Souljazz Orchestra is celebrating its 10th year. The album Freedom No Go Die (2006) featured a highly successful single titled “Mista President” and Manifesto, released in 2008 (Do Right! Records) set a high standard. In 2010, the all-acoustic, instrumental album Rising Sun (Strut Records), headed into mystical Afro jazz.

The Souljazz Orchestra will be touring Europe and North America from September 2012.

Tour Dates

Sep 22 – Ottawa, ON – Babylon
Nov 09 – Toronto, ON – Wrongbar
Nov 10 – Kingston, ON – The Mansion
Nov 15 – Québec, QC – Le Cercle
Nov 16 – Montréal, QC – Le Belmont
Nov 17 – Gatineau, QC – Petit Chicago
Nov 28 – Burlington, VT – Higher Ground **
Nov 29 – Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall **
Nov 30 – New York, NY – Webster Hall **
Dec 01 – Washington, DC – Jammin’ Java
Dec 02 – Philadelphia, PA – World Café Live **
Dec 04 – Buffalo, NY – Nietche’s **
Dec 05 – Columbus, OH – Woodlands Tavern **
Dec 06 – Detroit, MI – Pike Room **
Dec 07 – Chicago, IL – The Empty Bottle **
Dec 08 – Minneapolis, MN – Triple Rock

** – w/ Zongo Junction

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