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4Play: Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings/ Christian Scott/ Nas & Damien Marley/ Mulatu Astake

Kristi Kates - May 31st, 2010
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings - I Learned the Hard Way - Daptone
Responsible, in large part, for resuscitating ‘50s-’60s-era soul music and bringing it into the modern day and age (even staging a well-cheered performance at the Lollapalooza Fest), the feisty Jones and her swaggering backing band are back with their sophomore set, as produced by Bosco Mann. Recorded on an Ampex 8-track for a warmer, more authentic sound, the album - and the band - perfectly support Jones’ confident Franklin/Staples/Turner-esque vocals on tunes like the groovin’ “Money” and the bluesy ballad “If You Call.”





Christian Scott - Yesterday You Said Tomorrow - Concord
New Orleans trumpeter Scott recorded his fourth Concord jazz/hip-hop album at the legendary Van Gelder Studio in New Jersey, complete with engineering by Rudy Van Gelder himself. Spare production and a quartet band (instead of his previous sextet) allows the tracks to focus on Scott’s stylish trumpet playing, best showcased on the ballad “Isadora” and the funky and harmonically-detailed “After All.” Echoes of Miles Davis can be heard throughout as Scott continues to meld diverse genres into his own new brand of jazz.



Nas and Damian Marley - Distant Relatives - Republic
This is far more than either Nas or Marley guesting on the other’s album. Distant Relatives brings both artists together in an equally-collaborative production, deftly blending Nas’ heavier hip-hop with Marley’s dancehall and reggae, seasoning the set with everything from trumpets to congas, and finding common roots in both musicians’ work. “Tribes at War” sings of shared ancestry, “Africa Must Wake Up” puts forth a more political message, and “Count Your Blessings” adds a little optimism to the proceedings.




Mulatu Astatke - Mulatu Steps Ahead - Strut
The latest solo studio album from “the father of Ethio jazz,” Astatke’s work has long been known by serious world music and jazz fans, and for novices, it’s a great introduction to how world music fusions work best. On this set, he blends Ethiopian sounds together with Western jazz arrangements and instruments, for a detailed series of tracks on which several listens are needed to decipher all of the layers. Guesting alongside Astatke are members of The Heliocentrics as well as traditional Ethiopian musicians, to make the mix even richer.


 
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