souljazz_orchestra1_med_crop (photo by Alex Mattar)

Max Bell is naming his first born, Mulatu.

Thanks large in part to members of the Passion of the Weiss staff, the hashtag dictum #ListenToMoreJazz has been all over my Twitter timeline. Apart from the hashtag, the link between these tweets is that they’re generally accompanied by audio of jazz decades old. This is necessary. Mining the past is essential to listening in the present. And, as Jeff noted in one of his LA Weekly columns last year, with men like Thundercat slapping the bass, a jazz renaissance may be on the horizon, if not already here.

Ottawa’s The Souljazz Orchestra have dutifully contributed to said renaissance for the past several years. Both scholars and performers, they’ve combined their encyclopedic knowledge of all things jazz, soul, and world music with their unimpeachable musicianship to create numerous genre-blending grooves.

Their most recent record, Inner Fire, dropped last week via Strut Records. Indebted as much to Latin jazz as it is to Ethiopiques, and Afrobeat legends like Fela Kuti, it’s just over 40 minutes of solid, country-spanning cuts both tight and freewheeling. There are vibes and stuff for casual jazz fans and the most learned of archivists/historians. Even if every record doesn’t connect, you’re bound to find several that do.

“Kingdom Come” is the second single off of the album to receive visuals. This is African jazz built to make knees buckle, feet stomp, and walls vibrate. The horns blare with the unrelenting heat of the desert sun, the drums pound to the collective pulse of a thousand belly dancers. You will see visions of snake charmers, hieroglyphs, and gilded sarcophagi with thin beards of ancient sands. If not, you’ve never seen R. Kelly’s video for “Snake” and there aren’t enough mind altering substances in your diet.

Fittingly, the music video is made up of public domain footage of Egyptian art and architecture. Two history lessons are packed into one clip. Watch for your own edification and head-nodding.

Below is a short mix of highlights from The Souljazz Orchestra’s career, in addition to their video for “Celestial Blues.” #ListenToMoreJazz:


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