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Album Review

The Ottawa-based Souljazz Orchestra have been kicking out the international jams since 2002. Each album is a refinement of their musicianship, even as their musical palette expands. On Resistance, Pierre Chrétien's ensemble uses Afro-beat as its foundation, yet doesn't get get bogged down in overly reverential Fela worship. The sounds of Francophone African and French-Caribbean dance clubs are woven through a fabric of styles including cumbia, zouk, Afro-Haitian tropicalismo, Ivorian coupé-décalé dancehall music, and even NOLA funk. As is typical, liberation politics makes up the lyrical content; consciousness raising is easier when the message is woven into infectious music that enters the brain and backbone through blasting speakers and makes your feet move. Almost everybody in this band is a multi-instrumentalist, making charts not only complex but imaginative. Intricately arranged horns usually ride on top of the mix, while spiky organ, multiple layers of varied percussion instruments, driving bass, and tight guitar lines flesh it out. This foundation gives the vocalists ample room to explore, either in chorus fashion or solo. "Shock and Awe" is an Afro-beat stunner with crisp breaks, roaring horns, and hypnotic guitar propelling the singers in a militant call and response. "Bull's Eye," another Afro-beat jam, is led by organ with the horns clamoring assent; they play the role of a second-line chorus underscoring the singers. "Courage" weds Colombian cumbia to Afro-Cuban son with a sweaty, bruising strut and swagger. "Life Is What You Make It" nods directly at the trancey funk of the Meters, while coloring the edges of the tune with many shades of brown and black. "Soleil Couchant" stitches Afro-Latin dance music to Ivorian club sounds, while "Kossa Kossa" could be the result of Fela fronting the J.B.'s in a tropical disco. Set closer "It's Gonna Rain" is sultry summertime soul, with polyrhythmic Caribbean percussion flavoring the Stax-Volt groove. Resistance is as powerful as it is celebratory. The brevity of its tunes is remarkable — the longest cut is just a shade over five minutes, thus maximizing the dance potential. With every album, Souljazz Orchestra bring provocative surprise and musical delight. Resistance is no exception; it's chock-full of vitality and adventure.

Biography

Formed: 2002 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Genre: World

Years Active: '00s, '10s

A multicultural, high-energy collective from Ottawa, Ontario, the Souljazz Orchestra -- featuring keyboardist Pierre Chrétien, alto saxophonist Zakari Frantz, baritone saxophonist Ray Murray, tenor saxophonist Steve Patterson, and percussionists Marielle Rivard and Philippe Lafrenière, all of whom are also vocalists -- took root in 2002 and debuted with a fully developed sound that fused Latin and African jazz, funk, and Afro-beat. The group’s first album was Uprooted, released in 2005 on the Funk...
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Resistance, The Souljazz Orchestra
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