I should mention (out of fear of sounding like a P.R creep) that I don’t work for the label or know anyone affiliated with it but after years of seeing their ridiculously cool adverts staring back at me from the bottom of The Wire magazine I was lured into the Soul Jazz jungle and i’m having a real hard time making my way out.
One of the UKs best independent record labels releasing one spellbinding compilation after another, Soul Jazz was founded in the early 90’s. The London based label specialises in all manner of non mainstream musical delights with its main focus on principally black music with compilations featuring some of the most radical artists and musicians; including Sun Ra, The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Alice Coltrane and Os Mutantes. Amongst their incredible catalogue of innovative black music, Soul Jazz also delve into the world of psychedelic, DIY post punk and no wave and global sounds with the label imprint Sounds of the universe.
Soul Jazz don’t just deal in soundwaves, they’ve got the visual goods to boot with a whole host of excellent Blaxploitation films and music documentaries such as Les Stances A Sophie, Dub Echoes and Studio One Story.
Soul Jazz recently reignited (and sadly snuffed them out again) the flames of their infamous 100% dynamite monthly Sunday event in Brick Lane, featuring Soul Jazz sound system and hosting a huge roster of talent including Warrior Queen. They played dancehall, dubstep, funk and soul and hosted a film screening of Franco Rosso’s Babylon, a poignant look at working class black youths living in South London in the early 1980s accompanied by the sounds of I-Roy and Aswad.
With the likes of global music conduit Gilles Peterson regularly putting together compilations for the label, it is the first port of call for anyone interested in delving into the wonderful world of...Haitian voodoo tribal drumming say, or perhaps the polyphonic voices of Georgia. Whatever the niche, chances are Soul Jazz have covered it. But before anyone dare say it, Soul Jazz don’t deal in novelty exploitative new age rubbish; care and attention is paid to each release, usually coming with some artwork integral to the record itself and a nifty booklet chronicling the development and history of the genre or scene featured.
Here’s a small snippet of some recommended Soul Jazz releases.
Tropicalia: A Brazilian Revolution in Sound
An amazing selection of Brazilian Tropicalia featuring legendary artists such as Os Mutantes, Tom Zé and Gal Costa.
New Thing!: Deep Jazz in the USA
As usual Soul Jazz offer another microcosm of the cream of the civil rights jazz crop, in a similar vein to Universal Sounds of the America but less afro futuristic and more politicised tracks.
Universal Sound of America: Universal Sound of America
This is what the future should sound like. Theme de Yoyo is possibly the best track on the album. This release just proves Space is the Place.
Can You Dig It? The Music and Politics of Black Action Films 1968 – 75
A recent release putting together some familiar and alien sounds inspired and hired by some of the greatest Blaxploitation films, including Coffy, Foxy Brown and of course, Shaft Goes to Africa.