There’s a lot of needless talk about “authenticity” in popular music, and genres like reggae and Afro-beat have legions of skinny white trainspotting nerd-fans who know every musical tic and fart their heroes ever emitted.
Souljazz Orchestra must have gotten pretty good at ignoring those tiresome creatures by now. They’re a Canadian ensemble who make music that’s influenced by Afrobeat, the genre most closely associated for the late legend Fela Kuti. Critics tend to paint Souljazz Orchestra as pale mimics of a sound that was born out of the daily struggle of life in Nigeria in the ’70s, but on the evidence of Rising Sun, they’re missing the point.
The Afrobeat influences are obvious, but not overwhelming. The group also harness the beautiful, expansive “spiritual” ethno-jazz of Alice Coltrane, as well as Ethiopian jazz influences, and meld it into a warm, inviting gumbo.
Yes, there are horns, and there are vibes and flutes and woody bass grooves. It all sounds very organic, but unlike those rather thin recordings of Fela Kuti, Souljazz Orchestra allow themselves to be recorded in full, rich colours.
Rising Sun is a spirit-lifting dose of Vitamin D for those who can’t afford a trip to Rarotonga this winter. It’s a lovely record, natural-sounding and much sweeter for its emphasis on instrumentals.
Sound = 3.5 Stars