Ben has collated the roundup of the best albums and EP's to drop in May, featuring releases ranging from jazz, soul, broken beat, hip-hop, ambient, psychedelic-funk and house music. The following artists feature in this article:
Jazzbois / JK Group / El Michels Affair / Mr Käfer / Footshooter / Sharada Shashidhar / Hans Arnold / Dinosaur / Terrace Martin / The Sultan's Swing / Ebi Soda / Soulstatejazz / Shirley Scott / L'éclair
(Links to artists' social media and the records are found on the artist name and release title)
Budapest-based trio Jazzbois have released hip-hop remixes from their hugely impressive 2019 debut Jazzbois Goes Blunt. The original album was apparently written in one mammoth live session after smoking a fat J (noice), and the remixes build upon the jazz-hip-hop vibes brilliantly. The trio groove just as impressively as counterparts BADBADNOTGOOD, with remixes of 'Narctis', 'Smoothies' and 'Moon Rocks' particularly outstanding.
JK Group are the powerhouse fronted by Melbourne saxophonist Josh Kelly, best known for his work with future soul-jazz collective 30/70. Incorporating live jazz with electronic production, the sound has a high energy but with spiritual overtones as most of the grooves have a dancing feel to them. The embracing of modern production techniques allows tracks like 'Seeds' and 'Nutha One' to fit perfectly on the dancefloor whilst 'Young One' and 'Jazz Muggle' push you into the ethereal realms.
Adult Themes sees Leon Michels return as El Michels Affair, with more original compositions to allow the listener to “choose your own adventure” in musical form. The interludes have the typical soft funk, hip-hop vibes as well as more orchestral elements. Michaels' inspiration comes from composers David Axelrod and Francois de Roubaix, and tunes 'Rubix' and 'Villa' feature hard-hitting drums whereas 'Kill The Lights' is a more melodic but moody piece.
Austrian producer Mr. Käfer reflects on his North-African roots with new EP Orientation. To orchestrate his vision, Mr. Käfer has assembled a full band consisting of Makkako (guitar), Ruff I (double bass) and Christian Höll (Saxophone) as the soundscapes offer a hip-hop take on his Algerian roots. The saxophone bends with that Middle Eastern allure in 'Dawn at the Souk' whilst 'Feel Yourself' is a soft tune with lots of space left open by the piano's melody for the chillout vibes.
After the success of the debut Saul project last September, Footshooter is back with a new EP full of skipping drums, synth stabs and damn right delightful boppers. MA.MOYO features with spoken word on 'Malaika' that has a sexy jazz vibe, whilst trumpeter Wilf Petherbridge features on the uplifting brokenbeat 'Fwd Movement' and also on the house of 'Catch My Breath'. A really flawless production showcasing Foothsooter's signature drum programming and his ability to introduce infectious hooks with his collaborations.
Sharada Shashidhar - Rahu (Leaving Records, 14 May)
The debut release from Sharada Shashidhar on LA's Leaving Records is a great introduction to her soulful voice that takes inspiration from jazz and North and South Indian classical music. Her voice cuts through the production providing the rhythm to her melodies, with 'Vexed' combining frantic, glitchy piano with soul searching lyrics. 'Messages' is more contemplative, and 'Rotate' an uplifting, futuristic paean inspired by an impactful stay at an Ayurvedic centre in India. Certainly a rising start in the soul scene, with her unique songwriting similar to Leeds' B-ahwe.
Leipzig's Hans Arnold combines influences from ambient, indie and experimental music for his unique set-up of a Wurlitzer piano and a standing bass drum, as they merge into a single instrument through live-looping. Intense but with a minimalistic sound, there are lots of noisy textures that make his sound both electronic and acoustic sounding at the same time. 'Endarken' is Interstellar-like in its calming presence, whilst 'Decelerate' contains some intriguing piano phrasings amongst the humdrum of various percussive materials. One for ambient fans.
Mercury-nominated Dinosaur returns with their third album, featuring new material to celebrate ten years of making music together. Bandleader, composer and trumpeter Laura Jurd leads the distinctive yet ever-evolving music with playful abandon and technical prowess. Definitely a must-listen-to for fans who like a modern take on traditional jazz.
LA musician, rapper and producer Terrace Martin once again keeps it tight with this new EP, using his love for jazz sampling and hip-hop production to produce some tasty jams. The soulful trip-hop kinda beat of 'Beige' features Arin Ray and Elena Pinderhughes, whilst the ride-driven 'All I Own' has a swinging force driving the autotuned vocals. 'Trail Mix' is nice funker that drifts into a soulful cruiser featuring Buddy and Rose Gold.
Tom Funk delivers his new project under the name The Sultan's Swing, introducing a spiritual, psychedelic and cosmic journey of downtempo jazz fusion. With a soft spiritual sound, the album often has repetitive keys and horns stabs to allow for the floaty, summery jazz vibes to blossom. Chip Wickham provides his usual raucous flute soloing in 'Dune', whilst 'Astralweek' cruises along nicely with fantastic psych-induced synths and illuminating keys. 'You’re One of a Kind featuring Valentina Russo includes some lovely vibes work and 'Sunday Bloom' uses the synth wonderfully for a sci-fi Sunday jazz mood.
The latest release from Brighton's Ebi Soda is a mixtape recorded over the past year, carrying on their DIY-identity through their usual banging jams. Electronic effects are abundant, especially with the always gushing and just fucking cool-sounding trumpet, and the tight drum patterns. 'Ecchi' and 'Mas the Orc' start the mixtape off with a bang, whilst 'Spooki' and 'Keisha Billip' include the searing trumpet at its finest. The upbeat 'Playstation' moves into the funky 'Summer One' featuring a J Harli cameo on vocals, followed by the trip-hop jazz of 'Something to Do in the Future' and the intense chaos of 'Meow Meow' that ends the record with a spunky mosher. Standout track 'Run for President' has fluid rhythm and features Chloe Bodur with some intriguing and memorable lyricism about POTUS, particularly with "grab them by the pussy then run". Great grooves from a great band yet again.
The debut album from FreeRotation resident Tom Ellis with his new group Soulstatejazz is an early hours vibes record of electronic jazz-house, which was improvised and recorded over 3 days. The ensemble first played together at the Welsh festival and with fellow members Mark Hand, Michiel Renger and Dave Elson, the album features a many soothing and drifting long saxophone blows with funk basslines, airy Rhodes keys and typical dance percussion. The change-up in 'Ministry of Universal Redemption' opens into another wonderful groove, with 'Rebels on the Way' having a more obvious electronic layering before 'The Uncanny Valley' ends the LP with a driving ride pattern egging the bass on. It would certainly have been a treat to see these guys perform live on their own patch.
Shirley Scott - One For Me (Arc Records, 22 May)
The next reissue from Gilles Peterson's Arc Records is courtesy of Shirley Scott, originally released in 1975. Known as “Little Miss Half-Steps", One For Me is a deeply personal album for pianist and organist Scott as it was a tribute to the music she always desired to create but couldn't due to the demands of her vibrant career, having released over 45 albums mainly released on Impulse and Prestige labels. Featuring Harold Vick on tenor saxophone and Billy Higgins on drums, the album allows Scott to express herself more freely and create something for herself, taking back the power she’d seemingly relinquished throughout her career working for big labels and other artists.
Geneva-based high-grade groovers L'éclair return with some instrumental treats. 'Cebando' is funk driven with liquid synths rippling through the chunky disco guitar, whilst 'Atlantis' is an underwater wobbler with the polyrhythmic meditation pushing you along their psychedelic-tinged waves. 'Dallas' is modern psychedelic-funk at its best with some irresistible guitar riffs whilst 'Carousel' continues the funk with the synth phrasing repeating to have a club-like buildup. A versatile but fantastic band for people who like to mong out to tight but delectable grooves.