David Livingston, Getty Images P.O.D.'s thoroughly contemplative video for…
- Posted on Apr 9th 2010 4:30PM by David Dacks
But jazz with a backbeat has always been a fundamental part of the group's arsenal, and their new album 'Rising Sun' puts this back into focus.
This left turn from the hard-driving Afrobeat sounds which have made them a must-see live show across Canada and Europe, is a major but not unwelcome change for the band's sound. As is their migration to a label with more international presence, Strut Records.
"About a year or two ago, Strut asked us to do a remix of [reggae singer and Massive Attack collaborator] Horace Andy -- which for us means we take the vocals and play along to them -- and they were very happy with it," Souljazz's bandleader Pierre Chrétien tells Spinner. "When we came out with the new album, they were interested."
Although new labels often help bands reach greater touring platforms, the Orchestra has already been to Europe a half dozen times -- and this week crossed the pond again for a month-long series of dates, with another return in June to play Glastonbury Nonetheless, the European tour stops will witness a killer lineup, which, depending on the date, will see them play with the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble or French Afrobeat band Fanga.
"This album is an amalgamation of all our influences. We started out with soul jazz but got into Afrobeat a little later. We don't want to be pigeonholed into one thing we want to stay creative and push ourselves in different directions. The decision to go acoustic was a challenge to ourselves. Even though we were going acoustic, we still wanted it to be colourful. So instead of using organ patches and electric guitars, we're using flute and clarinet, harps, vibraphones, accordions."
It all adds up to something deeper than before. The sonic richness that made their Afrobeat hit so hard is still there, but with little instrumental touches that make it a more headphone-friendly mix. Among the new stylistic ingredients are Ethiojazz (influenced by Mulatu Astatke, whose cult following has grown since his music animated Jim Jarmusch's 'Broken Flowers' and was sampled by K'Naan) and early seventies spiritual jazz.
And Fela Kuti's influence is still present, though now tracks like 'Mamaya' feature marimbas where guitars used to be. "I wanted to replace electric guitars and I knew that in the old days in Africa when electric guitars were first introduced, they would transcribe balafon [a West African xylophone type instrument] lines," Chrétien explains. "So I kind of wanted to do the reverse process and transpose them to fit the marimba."
Chrétien knows they've made their name as a hard-driving Afrobeat ensemble, but even as they turn the page on that sound, another chapter is about to begin. "We weren't sure how people were going to receive this album at all," Chrétien admits. "We thought it was pretty different, less dancey and instrumental. We didn't know how people would take it. But it's definitely opened us up more to jazz audiences, which is cool."