Perhaps one of the oddest places to find afrojazz is Ottawa, Canada, but that is exactly where Souljazz Orchestra hails from. The septet release their third album, Rising Sun on Strut Records.
Strut Records’ recent love affair with afrojazz has allowed me to become pretty well versed on the subject. If not for reading their bio, I would have no idea that the Souljazz Orchestra is not from some African nation. Their grooves are deeply rooted in the 1960s afrojazz sound that was heavily influenced by American soul and funk music as well as Latin jazz.
I feel like by giving the genre the name afrojazz, it makes it seem more pretentious than it really is. The genre is actually very accessible. Souljazz Orchestra makes music that is fun and generally up beat filled with great horn lines and interesting percussion. The only thing that could make it more accessible is more vocals rather than the traditional African chanting vocals.
Take my favorite track on the album, “Agbara” for example. The track’s Latin influence is palpable with the use of syncopation being an obvious throw to Latin jazz. The call and response song style makes it a fun listen and the horns are hip hop sample worthy. There is nothing pompous about the track but the label Afrojazz is sure to turn off a few listeners who feel like the music will be over their heads.
The only weakness on the album is the slower tracks like “Serenity” and “Consecration” kind of kill the party mood. They are still well crafted jazz songs but they are definitely cool jazz rather than the hot jazz the rest of the album brings.
Overall, I highly recommend Rising Sun. The album is an accessible look at a genre that many Americans have not explored.