SUN RA ARKESTRA Under The Direction of Marshall Allen SWIRLING

The planets align this October as the mighty Sun Ra Arkestra, under the direction of the maestro Marshall Allen, release their first studio album in over twenty years, ‘Swirling’.

Recorded at Rittenhouse Soundworks in Philadelphia, the new recording represents the continuation of a heartfelt rebirth of the Arkestra under Allen’s guidance since Sun Ra left the planet in 1993, gaining new generations of followers from their regular touring across the globe. With a big band line-up featuring long-standing Arkestra members including Danny Ray Thompson (RIP), Michael Ray, Vincent Chancey, Knoel Scott, Cecil Brooks, Atakatune (RIP), Elson Nascimento and Tyler Mitchell, the album is a full-blooded celebration of Sun Ra’s legacy.

Tracks include brand new arrangements of Arkestra staples ‘Angels And Demons At Play’, ‘Satellites Are Spinning’, ‘Door Of The Cosmos’ and ‘Rocket No. 9’ alongside lesser known gems; the rousing blues ‘Darkness’ is recorded here for the first time, resurrected from the Ra archives by Marshall Allen. Other highlights include an epic version of ‘Seductive Fantasy’ (first recorded on Ra’s ‘On Jupiter’ LP in 1979), the freeform sonic blast of ‘Infinity / I’ll Wait For You’ and a first ever recording of the Marshall Allen swing composition, ‘Swirling’.

“We truly hope that this recording brings much joy to a planet which is so deeply in need of a spirit sound and vibration,” states saxophonist Knoel Scott. “We hope it contributes to a change in the ominous direction of man’s journey through the cosmos.” “This new release is the Arkestra’s love offering to the world,” concludes Marshall Allen. “Beta music for a better world”.

Sun Ra Arkestra’s ‘Swirling’ is released on 9th October 2020 on Strut on all formats. The album was produced by Jim Hamilton at Rittenhouse Soundworks. Cover artwork is by Lewis Heriz.

Coming to Strut on 9 October 2020!

SOUL LOVE NOW: THE BLACK FIRE RECORDS STORY 1975-1993

Strut presents the first ever compilation bringing together classics and rarities from the seminal spiritual jazz and conscious soul label Black Fire, covering 1975 to 1993.

Formed by DJ and record producer Jimmy Gray in Richmond, Virginia, and following in the footsteps of other influential black-owned independent labels like Strata-East and Tribe, the foundation of Black Fire coincided with saxophonist James “Plunky” Branch returning to the city from New York to form Oneness Of Juju. The band’s ‘African Rhythms’ album in 1975 was the perfect fusion of jazz, deep African polyrhythms and empowering lyrics and bassist Muzi Branch, a trained artist, created the first of many Black Fire hand-illustrated sleeves for the label’s debut release.

The album set the tone for a series of landmark releases on the label including Oneness Of Juju’s ‘Space Jungle Luv’ (1976) and debuts from soulman Wayne Davis (1976) and early go-go pioneers Experience Unlimited (1977). Gray continued to use his influence and strong A&R instincts to bring in more key artists – great jazz players like Byard Lancaster and Hamiet Bluiett, Ghanaian master percussionist Okyerema Asante and collectives including Southern Energy Ensemble and music/drama troupe Theatre West. Due to personal and cashflow issues, many releases had to be canned and only later surfaced on CD during the early ‘90s.

‘Soul Love Now’ brings together some of the many highlights from the label onto one essential compilation.

Opening with Theatre West’s powerful soul message ‘Children of Tomorrow’s Dreams’, the tracks include a Byard Lancaster recording with Tunde Kuboye’s Drummers Of Ibadan in Nigeria and Lon Moshe’s driving jazz dance classic ‘Doin’ The Carvin’ For Thabo’. Wayne Davis brings the explosive gospel rare groove ‘Look

At The People’ while Plunky’s JuJu and Oneness Of Juju feature with three tracks spanning their career, including a storming previously unreleased version of the classic ‘African Rhythms’ recorded in DC in 1975.

The release features extended sleeve notes around the history of the label alongside interviews with featured musicians. The 2LP format includes a reprint of one of the three original Black Fire magazines published by Jimmy Gray which predated the launch of the label. It’s available in the Strut store and Bandcamp on CD, 2LP and digital as well as all good record shops.

Coming to Strut on 14 August 2020!

 

IDRIS ACKAMOOR & THE PYRAMIDS

Influential jazz collective Idris Ackamoor and The Pyramids return with an epic new opus, ‘Shaman!’, released on 7th August featuring a fresh line-up including original 1970s Pyramids member Dr. Margaux Simmons on flute, Bobby Cobb on guitar, long- term associate Sandra Poindexter on violin, Ruben Ramos on bass, Gioele Pagliaccia on drums and Jack Yglesias on percussion. The band transitions from the political and social commentaries of 2018’s acclaimed ‘An Angel Fell’ into more introspective themes. “I wanted to use this album to touch on some of the issues that we all face as individuals in the inner space of our souls and our conscience,” explains Ackamoor. “The album unfolds over four Acts with personal musical statements about love and loss, mortality, the afterlife, family and salvation.”

Evolving around Ackamoor’s intricate compositions, the album takes us effortlessly across moods and emotions through a series of expansive, extended pieces. Starting with ritual, soul-searching, and masculine vulnerability on the title track, the band explores timeless existence on ‘Eternity’ and mourns the sudden loss of loved ones in the prescient ‘When Will I See You Again?’, a track which gains new relevance amidst the current COVID-19 crisis. Ackamoor pays tribute to his mentor Cecil Taylor on the angular ‘Theme For Cecil’ and renders homage to the ancestors on ‘Salvation’ and ‘The Last Slave Ship’, recalling the last ship to bring slaves to the US from Africa, the Clotilda. The superb ‘Virgin’ is an anthem of forgiveness, new beginnings and self-healing.

‘Shaman!’ marks another significant landmark in The Pyramids’ discography with the

band at the peak of their powers. It is produced by Malcolm Catto at his analogue HQ, Quatermass Studio, in London. Cover artwork features an exclusive new painting by

Japanese artist Tokio Aoyama. It’s available to pre-order in the Strut store and Bandcamp on CD, 2LP and digital as well as all good record shops on 4th August 2020.

Coming to Strut on 7 August 2020!

GREG FOAT SYMPHONIE PACIFIQUE

Strut is proud to announce the new album by UK jazz pianist, Greg  Foat, ‘Symphonie Pacifique’, released on 3rd July 2020. Foat has become a versatile mainstay in UK jazz through an acclaimed series of albums on Jazzman and Athens Of The North, moving from soul-jazz workouts to library music to cinematic, haunting compositions and pastoral acid folk. ‘Symphonie Pacifique’ goes expansive and widescreen, building a lush soundscape using choral textures, harp and tubular bells on the atmospheric ‘After The Storm’ alongside sensual groove-based tracks like the undulating ‘Anticipation’, the album title track and Groove Merchant-channelling ‘Nikinakinu’, all driven by Phil Achille on bass, Eric Young on congas and Moses Boyd’s crisp, flowing breakbeats. Other tracks include a moving tribute to KPM library legend Duncan Lamont on the reflective ‘Lament For Lamont’ and the languid, simmering ‘Island Life’.

The album is a truly international collaboration, recorded analogue and produced by Greg Foat at London’s Fish Factory studios with strings recorded in Edinburgh and choir in Gothenburg.

The album was mixed by Mattias Glava at Kungsten Studios in Gothenburg. Cover artwork is based on a painting by early 20th Century Algerian Parisian artist Henry Valensi.

‘Symphonie Pacifique’ marks another major step forward in Foat’s evolution as one of the UK’s leading jazz pianists and composers and is available in the Strut store and Bandcamp on CD, 2LP and digital as well as all good record shops. Also streaming everywhere you listen to music.

Coming to Strut on 3rd July 2020!

 

 

 

 

Afro grooves, electronics and fierce energy

Afro futurist sensations Onipa unleash their debut album, combining Afro grooves, electronics and fierce energy for an effervescent celebration of cultural and musical encounters.

ONIPA means ‘human’ in Akan, the ancient language of the Ashanti people of Ghana. It’s a message of connection through collaboration: from Ghana to London, our ancestors to our children, Onipa brings energy, groove, electronics, Afro-futurism, dance and fire! Born out of deep collaboration between long-time friends K.O.G (Kweku of Ghana of KOG and the Zongo Brigade) and Tom Excell (MD, guitarist and writer of acclaimed jazz/ soul afrobeat pioneers Nubiyan Twist), the group features KOG on vocals, balafon and percussion, Tom Excell on guitar, percussion and electronics, Dwayne Kilvington (Wonky Logic) on synths and MPC and Finn Booth (Nubiyan Twist) on drums.

The group have worked closely with Ghanaian star Wiyaala who features on three tracks, singing in the Sisaala language from the North of Ghana. The album also features collaborations with South African rapper Spoek Mathambo, Lesotho star Morena Leraba, Ghanaian percussion master Afla Sackey and Tanzanian sisters Pendo & Leah Zawose, each adding their own flavour to the project.

“Through the musical prisms of London and Ghana our influences join together to create, a fundamental thread of traditional African rhythms, instrumentation and storytelling, interwoven with electronics, urban soundscapes and synth bass. We use technology, but it should never use us, our music is live and about deep human connection.” (Onipa)

Coming to Strut on 30 March 2019!

DISQUES DEBS INTERNATIONAL Vol. 2 

Strut present the second volume in a series of compilations taken from the archives of Disques Debs International.

Disques Debs is the longest-running and most prolific label to have come out of the Francophone Caribbean. Based in Guadeloupe and helmed by producer and musician Henri Debs, the label ran from the late 1950s to the early 2000s and released over 200 LPs and 300 45s, playing a pivotal role in bringing the creole music of Guadeloupe and Martinique to a wider international audience.

Volume 2 celebrates the ‘70s recordings of the label that drew local, regional and international musicians and influences together to create a signature sound and style from its base in Pointe-à-Pitre.

At the beginning of the ‘70s, the Disques Debs label was already more than a decade into its existence and had begun to dominate the local record market in Guadeloupe and Martinique, anchored around some of the best studio equipment in the region and staff with a keen ear for a hit record. By the end
of the decade, the label and studio had pulled far ahead of the pack, pushing groups like Super Combo, Typical Combo and Les Vikings into Europe and across the Caribbean and stamping its own sound and aesthetic on the musical output of the region, paving the way for the global success of acts like Zouk Machine in the ‘80s.

The increasingly sophisticated sound coming out of the Debs studio found a home across the Caribbean diaspora in Europe and the Caribbean, bringing a new vision of Caribbean music.

Compiled by Hugo Mendez (Sofrito) and Emile Omar (Roseaux), ‘Cadence Revolution’ is released in conjunction with Henri Debs et Fils and Air Caraibes. The package features previously unseen photos from the Debs archive with both formats featuring extensive liner notes and an interview with singer and trombonist Christian Zora (Les Maxel’s, Energy). Coming to Strut on 31 January 2019.

The Nigeria 70 Box Set is coming

Strut present an exclusive new box set bringing together the complete groundbreaking Nigeria 70 series. Comprising 9 LPs and featuring all 4 volumes, the set also features a 24 page 12-inch-size booklet featuring previously unpublished interviews with artists and figures from Nigeria’s 1970s music scene alongside 7 thick card collector 12” prints of original ‘70s Nigerian album sleeves and a download including the full digital series and original Nigeria 70 audio documentary, narrated by Wunmi.

Originally released in 2001, Nigeria 70 was the first compilation of its kind to explore in depth the fertile music scene in Lagos as domestic artists mixed highlife and traditional rhythms with soul, funk, rock and jazz. While Western audiences were already familiar with Fela Kuti and his life story, the album placed the spotlight on some of the other great musicians and bandleaders in Nigeria during the ‘70s period: Joni Haastrup, Peter King, Segun Bucknor, Bala Miller, Blo, King Sunny Ade, Tunji Oyelana and many more. Three further volumes followed, exploring the far corners of original Afrobeat, juju, funk and soul.

This new box set is the definitive edition for all lovers of original Nigerian sounds. The booklet features all unseen photos from the original Nigeria 70 research trip in Lagos in 2000 along with transcripts of all of the interviews conducted with artists, producers and industry figures, many of whom have sadly since passed away. Contributors include Segun Bucknor, Harry Mosco (The Funkees), Tunde Kuboye (Afro Collection), Ginger Baker, Ebenezer Obey, journalist Benson Idonije, Elder Steve Rhodes and Ray Njoku (Arc Studios). The exclusive 12” prints include original sleeve artwork from Segun Bucknor, Sir Victor Uwaifo, Bala Miller and Sahara All Stars Jos.

The Nigeria 70 series is curated by Duncan Brooker, Quinton Scott and Kayode Samuel with artist interviews by Sue Bowerman. Lagos connections courtesy of Laolu Akins (Blo). The series was fully remastered by The Carvery.

 

 

Deluxe hardboard box set including 9 LPs (all 4 volumes), 24-page 12” booklet featuring artist interviews and unseen photos and 7 x collector 12” cards featuring original sleeve artwork. Coming to Strut on 31 January 2019.

TRIBE – HOMETOWN: DETROIT SESSIONS 1990-2014

“This album will be part of the everlasting impact the Tribe collective had on our culture, on our hope and possibilities.” Herb Boyd

Strut and Art Yard present the first compilation bringing together the modern era recordings of Tribe, Detroit’s acclaimed independent jazz collective.

Tribe began as a musical ensemble in 1971 co-founded by Saxophonist Wendell Harrison and trombonist Phil Ranelin that soon expanded into a broad amalgam including a live collective and independent record label. Ignored by the mainstream, many African American jazz artists in Detroit and across the US began creating their own small imprints and Tribe emerged alongside other cultural entities to express self-determination goals in the city: saxophonist Ernie Rodgers with his sessions at Rapa House; John and Leni Sinclair’s Artist Workshop; Bruce Millan’s Repertory Theater; the Hastings Jazz Experience and the Strata Corporation led by Kenny Cox. Harrison’s ideas of independence, self-determination and education were central to the Tribe ethos: “I might be possessed with a drive to get the knowledge out,” explained Harrison, “because I see this as sustaining the future of the jazz
diaspora, the jazz tradition.” Tribe album releases like Harrison’s ‘An Evening With The Devil’ (1972) and Harrison and Ranelin’s ‘A Message From The Tribe’ (1973) became early ‘70s milestones in Detroit jazz.

In 1977, Harrison teamed up with pianist/composer Harold McKinney to form Rebirth Inc., aided by Detroit cultural warrior John Sinclair, a continuation of the Tribe community ethos. Musically, it formed a link with radio station WDET and began an outreach program to teach children and to publish Harrison’s jazz instruction books. Harrison continue to record extensively as a leader with his own labels, WenHa and Tribe, documenting the collective through sessions led by Phil Ranelin, Harold McKinney, Pamela Wise and more.

The ‘Hometown’ compilation places the spotlight on this later era of Tribe and Rebirth Inc., with rare and previously unreleased recordings from Harrison’s WenHa / Rebirth Studios and the SereNgeti Gallery And Cultural Center. Among many highlights, Harold McKinney and his “McKinfolk” family of musicians contribute the pulsing ‘Wide And Blue’ and dance celebration ‘Juba’; Phil Ranelin re-works his classic ‘He The One We All Knew’; Poet Mbiyu Chui (Williams Moore), pianist Pamela Wise and percussionist Djallo Djakate spark on the uncompromising ‘Ode To Black Mothers’ and the rallying cry of ‘Marcus Garvey’: “If we ever get together we will astound the world.” Harrison himself evokes the power and majesty of juju on ‘Conjure Man’.

‘Hometown’ comes as a 2LP gatefold and 1CD digipak fully remastered by Technology Works from the original session recordings. Both formats include exclusive sleeve notes by journalist Herb Boyd with rare photos from Wendell Harrison’s personal archive. Coming to Strut in November.

Strut presents the definitive remastered edition of Miriam Makeba’s ‘Pata Pata’

Strut presents an all-time classic of South African music, the definitive remastered edition of Miriam Makeba’s ‘Pata Pata’, her first album recorded for Reprise in 1966.

The album marked a significant international breakthrough for Makeba. Moving to the US after the anti-apartheid film ‘Come Back, Africa’ gained international attention and staying there in exile, she quickly built her career in New York during the ‘60s, mentored by Harry Belafonte. Signing with Reprise after a period with RCA, she returned to one of her older hits with the Skylarks: “I wrote ‘Pata Pata’ back in 1956, back in South Africa,” remembered Makeba in her autobiography. “It was a fun little song and I was thinking of a dance that we do at home (“pata” means ‘touch” in Zulu
and Xhosa).” Originally a hit in South Africa with her early vocal harmony group the Skylarks, the new recording, produced by Jerry Ragovoy, brought a lighter uptempo R’nB arrangement, adding some English lyrics. “It was my first truly big seller. All of a sudden, people who never knew I had been in America since 1959 were asking me to be on their television shows and play at their concert halls during 1967. In the discotheques, they invented a new dance called the ‘Pata Pata’ where couples dance apart and then reach out and touch each other. I went to Argentina for a concert and, across South America, they are singing my song.”

The track peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at no. 12 and the album. Other songs on the album included a version of the traditional Xhosa classic, ‘Click Song Number One’ (‘Qongqothwane’), the atmospheric ‘West Wind’, later famously covered by her friend Nina Simone, and a version of Tilahun Gessesse’s ‘Yetentu Tizaleny’ which Makeba learned on a trip to Addis to perform for Haile Selassie at the Organisation Of African Unity.

Mastered by The Carvery from the original reel to reel tapes, ‘Pata Pata’ is released in its mono and stereo versions for the first time. Physical formats feature brand new sleeve notes alongside rare photos from the time of recording and session details. Out now on 2LP, 1CD, streaming and digital.

New album from Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band

The modern-day leaders of Ghanaian highlife music are back!

★★★★★ – The Guardian

Strut is proud to present Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band’s sophomore release ‘Obiaa!’, out now. The album, produced again by Kwame Yeboah and Ben Abarbanel-Wolff at Lovelite Studio’s analogue HQ in Berlin, is a deep and soulful journey into the heart of Ghana’s indigenous highlife music celebrating the timeless and iconic voice of Pat Thomas, the 72 year-old “Golden Voice of Africa”.

After producing Ebo Taylor’s seminal albums ‘Love and Death’ and ‘Appia Kwa Bridge’ for Strut Records, in 2014 Ben Abarbanel-Wolff approached Kwame Yeboah, Ghana’s top contemporary instrumentalist and bandleader, to work on a new project: “We initially wanted to invite Pat back into the studio with Ebo Taylor and Tony Allen to recreate and expand on some of the vibes they had recorded together during a lost session in 1977,” Ben explains. Recorded in Accra, the result was the critically acclaimed self-titled debut album ‘Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band’ in 2015.

The new album is called ‘Obiaa!’ which means ‘Everybody!’. Tracks include the modern parables ‘Onfa Nkosi Hwee’ warning against arrogance and ‘Odo Ankasa’ about the value of real love and trust as well as a great new cover of Thomas’ Afro-disco favourite ‘Yamona’. “Playing highlife around the world taught us what we had to do to move our sound forward,” continues Ben. While simultaneously looking back towards the classic days of highlife and forward to a fresh revival of the guitar band sound, this album cements Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band’s position at the pinnacle of modern African music.

‘Obiaa!’ is out now on all formats. The album features exclusive cover artwork by Lewis Heriz with photos by Marie Weikopf and Michelle Chiu and is mastered by Édouard Bonan at Ed-Room Studio in Paris.

The European tour during October / November 2019

01.10.2019 Jazz Cafe, London, UK

02.10.2019 Norwich Arts Center, Norwich UK

04.10.2019 Ubu, Rennes, FR

05.10.2019 New Morning, Paris, FR

07.10.2019 PR DAY, Paris FR

08.10.2019 Schlachthof, Wiesbaden, DE

10.10.2019 YAAM, Berlin, DE

11.10.2019 PR DAY, Berlin, DE

12.10.2019 Alice, Copenhagen, DK

13.10.2019 Atlas, Aarhus, DK

16.10.2019 0osterport, Groningen, NL

18.10.2019 Grounds, Rotterdam, NL

19.19.2019 Paradiso, Amsterdam, NL

20.10.2019 Doornrosje, Nijmegen, NL

25.10.2019 Biko, Milan, IT

26.10.2019 Moods, Zurich, CH