One of the pleasures of owning a record shop is getting a visit from musicians. Being Jazz heads, it’s extra special to get a visit from a talent like Idris Ackamoor. Tenor man and founding member of The Pyramids. Even more special when the legend comes bearing a bag of back stock from his hefty catalogue.
The Pyramids formed in Ohio in the early 70s under the tutelage of Cecil Taylor. After touring Africa and expanding their sound, the group settled in San Francisco. Around this time, they released three LPs on their own private label, Pyramid Records. Lalibela, King of Kings, and Birth/Speed/Merging. Must haves for anyone into Art Ensemble of Chicago, Don Cherry, and the like. Afrocentric, contemplative, avant-garde Jazz.
The Pyramids split in 1977 and for the next 30 years Idris spearheaded another Jazz outfit called the Cultural Odyssey but he reformed the Pyramids in 2010. Three albums soon followed: Otherworldly, We Be All Africans, and An Angel Fell. The last two released by the label Strut in the U.K. Here The Pyramids find themselves among the prestigious company of artists like the Ethiopian Jazz man Mulatu Astatke and Lloyd Miller (who merged traditional Middle Eastern instruments with American Jazz).
While we were familiar with The Pyramids’ early LPs (having pulled original copies from storage units or garages), the Strut releases had, unfortunately, slipped under our noses. Dropping the needle on An Angel Fell, we were blown away. It is an exceptional record. And totally in line with the contemporary Jazz sound we enjoy: like Kamasi Washington or Greg Foat. Well-recorded and funky with spiritual messages that concern the state of our planet. Hear it for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vcEj4A_3H2A.
We first heard about the pianist Greg Foat while at a friend’s listening party a few years back. We thought he was playing a cut from Miles’ “Elevator to the Gallows” but we were pleasantly surprised when he corrected us. It was a new jazz record by a new artist from the U.K. Naturally, we delved into researching more about Foat and his work and soon discovered we were late to the game. Foat had already established a hearty catalogue of jazz in all its forms – the first, Dark Is the Sun.
The first print was long gone, fetching high sums on the secondary market, but had gone through a few represses. Timmion Records in Finland remastered and cut these second runs in Finland. A label known mostly for Soul records but also for the quality fidelity of their vinyl. Here Foat beautifully blends the harpsichord with floating electronic sounds. His subsequent release, Girl and Robot with Flowers, is that reminiscent of Miles’ Gallows, although the b-side drifts into a more electronic mix of jazz and hip-hip similar to the sounds on Dark.
Between his early work of 2011/12 and the two albums he put out this past year, Foat scored a number of albums. These were collaborations with other artists like Warren Hampshire and lean more in the direction of ambient, library, and classical. His 2019 LPs, The Mage and The Dreaming Jewels, are jazz all the way and both equally excellent. The first is Foat’s venture into a more spiritual sound. He captures the slow builds and vocal harmonies found on 70’s labels like Strata East or Tribe. The second, the release we’re featuring here, is straight raw jazz-funk in its most hard hitting form.
Foat plays the fender rhodes on the entire record. It also features the incredible drumming of Malcolm Catto. If you don’t know his work, it’s worth checking out as well. Every track on this album is fire. Great for listening at home or playing out. A must for those who love all those 70s jazz-funk records the hiphop producers sampled back-in-the-day. Give the album a fill listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nuc0Tvnb8R0&list=OLAK5uy_l4iVqU1xM-nqlED4jHKRuFkAdXMLeB3og First batch sold out before hitting the bins. Don’t let the second pass you by!
There is a lot of throwback music coming out these days. New records that capture an old sound so well they actually seem like they were made in the genre’s heyday. For example, the rock group Drab Majesty emulates that 80s synth-pop style. Kaleta & the Super Yamba Band have fooled customers into thinking we’re playing Fela Kuti. In the hip-hop world, cats like Kluas Layers mirror the beats of the 93 Golden Age with boom bap drums and echoing horns.
One of the most abundant genres to experience this new birth is Soul. Sweet Soul, in particular, which is a favorite in our shop. There are so many new labels and artists who have studied that sound and boiled it down to its concentrate for their albums. Smooth all the way through. The new Durand Jones & the Indications 45 is a prime example of this laid back neo soul groove. Perfect for cruising around town, late night deejay sets, or that mix tape you’ve been planning for that special someone.
If you zoom in on the hype sticker, you’ll find it mentions genres like Psychedelia, Funk, Tropicalia, Jazz, and Alternative when describing this release. Everything the Mr. Bongo label typically covers in its rich catalog. What it doesn’t advertise, however, is that this is a new band and new record. Not a re-issue or something mined from a lost tape but new kids interpreting the old grooves in their own unique style. You could throw out a number of adjectives to try and pin this record down but it really defies any one sort of genre. Let’s put it this way: if you like groovy world music, you’ll like this too. If you like Khruangbin or the Bay Area’s own Sitka Sun, you’ll like this too.
Actually, the jacket nor the sleeve says much of anything about who these guys are. But if you check out the Mr. Bongo website (https://us.mrbongo.com/collections/kit-sebastian) you’ll read the duo fronting the group have an intriguing background. Kit Martin lives and plays between London and France and the Turkish born Merve Erdem studied film in Rome, now lives between the U.S. and U.K., and is also a visual artist.
Our first batch of these sold out before they even hit the bins – no joke. The second batch just arrived and is now available in shop. We have a feeling these won’t last very long either.
It’s truly an exciting time for music on vinyl. So much stuff is being released it’s hard to keep track of it all. Of particular interest in our shop are the things that are being unearthed from back in the day. Old artists whose work, for one reason or another, was never properly released. Maybe because they were too regional, maybe they were too ahead of the curve, or maybe behind it.
In the case of Chicago’s Four M company, recently issued by Family Groove Records, their 1979 6 track E.P. was recorded in a legitimate studio but never released. The group, which formed in high school, may have been a bit early for the Boogie wave. Generally considered as soul music from 1980 -1985. The cuts on this range from the dance floor shakers to slow groove burners, with nice synths and harmonies. Check the SoundCloud teaser here: https://soundcloud.com/family-groove-records/the-four-m-company Limited to 500 copies world-wide, of which we have a few. Once these are gone, they’re gone for good.
Germany’s Dezi-Belle Records has been putting out quality instrumental HipHop since 2015. They follow a Do-It-Yourself approach since they record, master, cut, and distribute all their releases. Yes, they cut each and every release themselves in real-time from virgin wax. That’s why each of their LPs is limited to 100 copies (50 for each 45). You got to have a whole lot of respect and passion for the art form to do it like that!
This latest batch contains five titles, mostly of a chill, lo-fi leaning sounds. Peep their BandCamp for audio snippets: https://dezi-belle.bandcamp.com/music. The Raw Suppliers is a comp that features up-and-coming beat makers. A good tool to sound the depths of the ever-changing European hiphop scene.
Back-stock copies of Galt MacDermot’s Ripped Open by Metal Explosions 45 just landed in the shop. Out-of-print since 2001, this has to be one of the funkiest things Galt ever composed. And the man’s catalogue is mostly funky tunes. This cut features Idris Muhammad on drums and was sampled by the Artifacts for their classic HipHop single C’mon Wit Da Get Down.
United Artist first released this track in 1970 as part of an LP comprised as what could be called “alternative” takes to the Hair Soundtrack. Egon and company printed the track on 45 in 2001 as they dug through Galt’s archives. Around the same time, they unearthed new material (Up from the Basement Vol. 1 and Vol. 2) and reprinted two of his most collectible records Shapes of Rhythm and Woman Is Sweeter. Both laced with classic rap samples.
Belgian beatmaker FloFilz has been a shop favorite ever since Melting Pot Music put out his first solo project in 2014. 5 years and several releases later, the producer is still making some of the illest beats around. Lush, jazzy, late-night, golden era throw back stuff. For example, check out his remix of Afu-Ra’s Whirlwind Thru Cities. Blasphemous as it is to say, his might just be better than Primo’s.
The aesthetic of each of Flo’s releases on Melting Pot is enhanced by the cover photography of Robert Winter. Saturated black and whites of the European urban landscape – beautiful tile geometries, subway tracks, and overpasses. All first presses include a booklet with more of Winter’s photos. Unfortunately, the second issues of “Cenario” and “Metronome” don’t have the books but the beats hit just the same. Makes us want to watch Europe go by from a train window with Flo in our ears.
Mac Dre, along with Too Short and E-40, was one of the earliest to shape the Bay Area rap sound. His first album, Young Black Brotha, dropped in 1989; the same year as De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising. His early albums have long been out-of-print in any format. The material released by the Strictly Business label never really left the region and rarely surfaces from the collections of rap nerds. In fact, we’ve only had the originals twice in 5 years.
City Hall Records has been been printing some of Mac Dre’s later catalogue – mostly material previously available on CD but never on vinyl. But now they are dipping into his early stuff, which has never got its just reprint on vinyl. This collection covers all the big hits and classic collaborations with other Bay greats like Mac Mall. Check Nuthin But Love on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkU93ZW2d-0 A must have for anyone getting into that Bay sound.
Our friends from HMV Tokyo were nice enough to bring us a handful of their recent re-issue LPs. These are only available in Japan – they do not ship these abroad. Limited edition, high quality pressings on 180 gram virgin vinyl with OBI strips, heavy cardboard covers, and inserts.
The T.Honda 45 at center offers heavy jazz funk covers of two classic tunes. Fans of Kudu and CTI should peep the slow grooves on Leeward by the Mabumi Yamaguchi. For those into Boogie and AOR with recommended the albums by Haruko Kuwana and Taeko Ohnuki (the latter an all-time best seller in Japan). The jazz traditionalists who dig Bill Evans and Gene Harris will enjoy Scenery, Ryo Fukui’s lovely piano trio recording. And finally, one copy of the now sold out Sounds of Sound; a hybrid of everything pysch.