Review: It Remains To Be Seen from Afro Elements

I hadn’t heard Afro Elements, but while digging around the web, I came across a link to their site from Down To The Bone’s website. Later, after I mentioned in a post on my blog that the album art on It Remains To Be Seen was a replica of Jeff Lorber’s Wizard Island, Simon from the group dropped me a note. In all honesty, even though I never listened to a track from these guys,I was looking forward to reviewing this release – just based on the balls needed to co-op the album art from one of the all-time great contemporary jazz releases.

Essentially, Afro Elements is Simon Bramley on bass, Phil Nelson on drums and Neil Burditt on keyboards. According to their bio, this core group of three, when not in the studio, expands to eight members for live appearances, as well as playing with and contributing to the likes of Mr Gone and Down To The Bone. If you’re a fan of Incognito and Down To The Bone, you’ll definitely get into these guys; very nu-jazz, great retro keyboards (permission granted for the cover art!), tight horns and an abundance of percussion. The music is very contemporary, leaning more towards jazz-soul-funk, than the electronica camp where a lot of the nu-jazz groups hangout. I would highly recommend picking this release up – this is very good stuff! Standout tracks include “Four Letter Word” and “Stop You’re Killing Me.”

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Review: Supercharged from Down to the Bone

Supercharged by Down to the BoneDown to the Bone has the perfect summer soundtrack with their fun and funky new release Supercharged. True to the title, this release is a pumped-up, constant jam that won’t let your body remain idle. It needs a warning label – “Product contains powerful horns (props to Shilts and the D.C. Horns), percolating bass, mean guitar by Tony Remy, and relentless energy – may leave you exhausted after play!”

Supercharged sounds like it should be listened to in the sunshine, preferably driving down the highway with the top down. It conjures up summer imagery, especially on two of my favorite tracks. “Parkside Shuffle” is a nice, sweet tune, reminiscent of a walk in the park, that builds into an unbelievably infectious melody around the two-minute mark. Hil St. Soul adds a strong vocal effort to the uplifting “Smile to Shine.” A flavorful bass line and welcome trumpet and trombone solos at the end only make a great song better.

Maybe I’m not looking hard enough, but it’s rare to hear this kind of music released and receiving mass distribution in the States. Buy this release when it comes out on June 18. Not only will you get music you’ll enjoy all season/year long but maybe enough copies will sell to justify more funky soulful jazz recordings.