Since first arriving on the scene at the turn of the millenium, the Souljazz Orchestra has never stopped pushing the limits of its signature sound: an explosive clash of soul, jazz and tropical styles, unleashed by blaring majestic horns, dusty vintage keyboards, and an arsenal of earthquaking percussion.
The multicultural collective is back with one of its finest albums to date on its scorching new release, Under Burning Skies, resuming its link-up with UK-based Strut Records. Turbulent times call for strong voices and the Souljazz Orchestra’s new set packs a heavy lyrical punch, with wry observations and an urge for progressive change. Musically, the band continues to push the limits, dusting off ‘80s vintage synthesizers and early drum machines for the first time, bringing lo-fi disco, boogie and electro touches to their trademark horn arrangements and earthy analogue sound. The result is nothing short of fascinating and the group sounds at its confident and versatile best from start to finish.
Opener ‘Dog Eat Dog’ powers in with Mabinuori Idowu and Philippe Lafrenière lambasting the powerful and the corrupt over an infectious Afro-disco groove; ‘Lufunki’ takes the group right back to its B-Boy roots, bringing the Afro vibes to Beat Street and ‘Is Yeelyel’ delivers a killer rework of an obscure original by Somalian super-group Dur-Dur Band. The band goes on exploring its passion for French Caribbean styles on the beautiful, lilting ‘Oublier Pour Un Jour’ and ‘Tambour À Deux Peaux’ but also take time for reflection on the potent instrumental title track and poignant closer ‘Aduna Jarul Naawo’, featuring the vocals of Élage Mbaye.
Now celebrating its 15th year, the Souljazz Orchestra continues to be an unstoppable force. Nominated for a Canadian Juno award for the third time in 2016, the band regularly tears up venues worldwide through its punishing schedule. In fact, years of relentless touring have formed the Souljazz Orchestra’s live concerts into the stuff of legends – more often than not culminating in ecstatic, sweat-soaked, cathartic affairs, mixing pulsating arrangements with eruptive improvisations.
So far, the sextet has been fortunate enough to bring its dynamite show to over two dozen countries across the globe, sharing bills along the way with heavyweights such as Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, and Femi Kuti, while showing no signs of slowing down. As saxophonist Ray Murray puts it, “Souljazz is more than just a band for us, it’s a way of life.”