BY FATEEMA SAYANI
The new Souljazz Orchestra album—out September 4—continues a theme started long ago with their debut, Freedom No Go Die, released in 2006. Nearly a decade on, the globetrotting Ottawa act continues its power-to-the-people rhythms with Resistance (Strut Records/Do Right! Music). Find it on CD, vinyl, and digitally on September 4.
Resistance finds the Souljazz Orchestra in fine form and thoroughly flexing a new muscle. The band, which began as an instrumental outfit, steps out with its first all-vocal album. It sees keyboardist Pierre Chretien, drummer Phillipe Lafreniere, sax player Ray Murray, and percussionist Marielle Rivard each taking a turn at the microphone delivering trenchant social commentary, political wake-up calls, and mobilizing mantras.
Lafreniere calls for a better life for workers and the poor in “Greet the Dawn,” a hip-strutting call-and-response dazzler that sets the tone for the rest of the album.
“Shock & Awe” has a rat-tat-tat firing-round vocal delivery. Contrasting that militaristic sense are lyrics celebrating revolt and the power of people to come together in the face of adversity. (Check out the SJO’s video for that tune here and grab a free download of this album’s Occupy-inspired tune “Bull’s Eye” via PopMatters).
That vibe carries into “Life Is What You Make It,” while “As the World Turns” shows Marielle Rivard’s vocal chops. Those came to light on the group’s previous album, Inner Fire, when she covered Andy Bey’s “Celestial Blues.”
Keep “Courage” and “Ware Wa” on your dancefloor playlist and wind down with the sweetly contemplative “It’s Gonna Rain.”
This is the band’s sixth release in 13 years. The Souljazz Orchestra’s early albums showed their fluency in Afro and Latin genres along with their deep appreciation for jazz, roots, and the work of Fela Kuti.
Last year, the band released its back catalogue on 180-gram vinyl (we picked our fave tunes from over the years in this post from 2014).
The globetrotting group will continue their travels this fall. An international tour is soon to be announced. The band makes regular stops in France, Germany, and the U.K. Check out this archived Souljazz tour diary for a few laughs).