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"Jazz Artist of the Year" (Nominee)
- 2015 Indie Awards, Canada

"Top International Album of 2014" (#1): Inner Fire
- !earshot 2014 Year-End Radio Charts, Canada

"Top Jazz Albums of 2014" (#2): Inner Fire
- !earshot 2014 Year-End Radio Charts, Canada

"Top World Albums of 2014" (#12): Inner Fire
- CMJ 2014 Year-End Radio Charts, USA

"Top Jazz Albums of 2014" (#12): Inner Fire
- CMJ 2014 Year-End Radio Charts, USA

"Top Jazz Albums of 2014": Inner Fire
- AllMusic, USA

"Top Albums of 2014": Inner Fire
- DJ Patrick Forge, London UK

"Top Albums of 2014": Inner Fire
- DJ Jeremy Sole, KCRW, Los Angeles CA

"Top Albums of 2014": Inner Fire
- Pop Matters, USA

"Top Soul/R&B Albums of 2014": Inner Fire
- Exclaim!, Toronto, ON

"Top Albums of 2014": Inner Fire
- Paris DJs, France

"Top Albums of 2014": Inner Fire
- Le Mellotron, France

"Top Albums of 2014": Inner Fire
- Radio Mukambo, Brussels, Belgium

"Top Albums of 2014": Inner Fire
- African Jazz, London UK

"Top Albums of 2014": Inner Fire
- Anatoly Ice, Moscow, Russia

"Top Albums of 2014": Inner Fire
- Alternative Sound, France

"Top Albums of 2014": Inner Fire
- The Suite Delight, Montreal QC

"Top Albums of 2014": Inner Fire
- Global A Go-Go, Richmond VA

"Top Albums of 2014": Inner Fire
- Campus FM, Toulouse, France

"Top Albums of 2014": Inner Fire
- Sparse, Dijon, France

"Top Albums of 2014": Inner Fire
- KUSP, San Francisco CA

"Top Albums of 2014": Inner Fire
- CKUA, Edmonton AB

"Top Albums of 2014": Inner Fire
- KUSF, San Francisco CA

"Top Albums of 2014": Inner Fire
- David Dalle, CKCU, Ottawa ON

"Top Albums of 2014": Inner Fire
- Global Village, KMUW, Wichita KS

"Top Albums of 2014": Inner Fire
- WXDU, Durham NC

"Top Albums of 2014": Inner Fire
- Allan Laskey, WWOZ, New Orleans LA

"Top Albums of 2014": Inner Fire
- Mixgrill, Greece

"Top Albums of 2014": Inner Fire
- De la lune on entend tout, France

"World Music Album of the Year": Solidarity
- 2013 JUNO Awards, Canada
(Nominee)

"World Music Artist of the Year"
- 2013 Indie Awards, Canada
(Winner)

"#1 Album of 2012": Solidarity
- Paris DJs, Paris France

"#1 Album of 2012": Solidarity
- DJ Solespin, CJLO, Montreal QC

"#1 Global Grooves Album of 2012": Solidarity
- Record Racks, Indianapolis IN

"Top Tracks of 2012": Cartão Postal
- DJ Gilles Peterson, BBC Radio 6

"Top International Albums of 2012" (#2): Solidarity
- !earshot 2012 Year-End Radio Charts, Canada

"Top World Albums of 2012" (#10): Solidarity
- CMJ 2012 Year-End Radio Charts, USA

"Top World Albums of 2012": Solidarity
- CBC Music, Canada

"Top Groove Albums of 2012": Solidarity
- Exclaim!, Toronto ON

"Top Big Band Albums of 2012": Solidarity
- Ben Robertson, African Jazz

"Top Albums of 2012": Solidarity
- Vibrations Magazine, France/Switerland

"Top Albums of 2012": Solidarity
- Village Dance Radio, Berkeley CA

"Top Afrobeat Albums of 2012": Solidarity
- This World Music, Cambridge MA

"Top Albums of 2012": Solidarity
- 25thC, Something You Said, UK

"Top Albums of 2012": Solidarity
- The Afrobeat Blog, Buffalo NY

"Top Albums of 2012": Solidarity
- Music Lodge, France

"Top Albums of 2012": Solidarity
- Bryan Raydio, Halifax NS

"Top Albums of 2012": Solidarity
- Peace & Rhythm, Amherst MA

"Top Ass-Shakers of 2012": Serve & Protect
- Kept Records, Calgary AB

"Video of the Week": Conquering Lion
September 21st, 2012
- National Geographic, Washington DC

"Album of the Week": Solidarity
September 4th, 2012
- Fonkadelica, Angers France

"Video of the Week": Ya Basta
August 31st, 2012
- National Geographic, Washington DC

"Top Bands of 2011"
- Ottawa XPress, Ottawa ON

"Top Concerts of 2011":
April 14th, gazARTE
- Radio Kosmos, Athens Greece

"2011 Instrumental Album of the Year":
Rising Sun (Nominee)
- Juno Awards, Canada

"#1 Album of 2010 by a Canadian Band" and
"Top 10 Albums of 2010": Rising Sun
- CBC News, Canada

"Top 10 Albums of 2010": Rising Sun
- Chris Burland, CHARTattack, Toronto ON

"Top 10 Albums of 2010": Rising Sun
- Paris DJs, Paris France

"Top Albums of 2010": Rising Sun
- Piccadilly Records, Manchester UK

"Top 10 Albums of 2010": Rising Sun
- DJ Jeremy Sole, KCRW Radio, Santa Monica CA

"Best Albums of 2010": Rising Sun
- DJ Ennio Styles, RRR Radio, Melbourne Australia

"Best Albums of 2010": Rising Sun
- Highlife World Music, Vancouver BC

"#1 Jazz Album of 2010": Rising Sun
- Scratched Into Our Souls, Los Angeles CA

"Best Albums of 2010": Rising Sun
- Bending Corners, USA

"Top Albums of 2010": Rising Sun
- Sun On The Sand, Canada/USA

"Top 10 Albums of 2010": Rising Sun
- Global A Go-Go, WRIR Radio, Richmond VA

"Best Albums of 2010": Rising Sun
- American Atlete, San Francisco CA

"Top Albums of 2010": Rising Sun
- Vibes4YourSoul, Paris France

"Top Tracks of 2010": "Agbara"
- Solesides, San Francisco CA

"Top Tracks of 2010": "Rejoice, Pt. 2"
- Breakin Bread Radio Show, London UK

"Top Tracks of 2010": "Lotus Flower"
- Inside Vibe, PBS Radio, Melbourne Australia

"Top Tracks of 2010": "Serenity"
- Cosmic Jazz, ICR Radio, London UK

"Top Bands of 2010"
- Ottawa XPress, Ottawa ON

"Top Albums of 2010": Rising Sun
- Ottawa XPress, Ottawa ON

"This Week's Best Albums": Rising Sun
February 16th, 2010
- Alarm Magazine, Chicago IL

"Track of the Week": Mamaya
February 1st, 2010
- National Geographic, Washington DC

"Top Remix of 2009": Watch We
- Musiques impures, France

"Most Intense Concert of 2009":
May 13th, La Bellevilloise
- VoxPopMag, Paris, France

"Top Album of 2008": Manifesto
- Kalcha, Vibrations Magazine, France/Switzerland

"Top 10 Albums of 2008": Manifesto
- SoundProof Magazine, Toronto ON

"Top 10 World Albums of 2008": Manifesto
- FFWD Entertainment Weekly, Calgary AB

"Top 10 Albums for December 2008": Manifesto
- !earshot Canadian Indy Radio Charts

"2007 Band of the Year"
- Voir Magazine, Gatineau/Ottawa

"Top 10 Albums of 2007": Freedom No Go Die
- DJ Scott C, Montreal Mirror

"Best Albums of 2007": Freedom No Go Die
- Highlife World Music Magazine, Vancouver BC

"Top 10 Tracks of 2006": Mista President
- Gilles Peterson Worldwide, BBC Radio 1, UK

Soul Bag Magazine
par Franck Cochon
No 214
Avril-Mai-Juin 2014
Noisy-le-Sec, France


Disque solaire vénéré ou poings brandis de révolte, avec les très graphiques et surtout très expressives pochettes du Souljazz Orchestra, il est souvent question d'élévation. Avec le phénix incandescent, est venue l'heure de vraiment s'envoler pour un voyage en haute altitude qui, comme souvent avec le crew canadien, passera par différents endroits du globe. "Solidarity" proposait une virée surchauffée dans les clubs étriqués et bas de plafond pour se saouler de reggae, de funk ou de salsa ; "Inner Fire", en y refaisant quelques haltes, exprime surtout un besoin criant de grands espaces pour pouvoir s'exprimer pleinement. L'étroit n'a plus droit de cité, l'immense est la règle. On parle d'horizons infinis, de dunes de sable à perte de vue. Amérique latine, Afrique, Europe de l'Est, à chaque fois l'oiseau en combustion happe dans son sillage rythmes endiablés, transes méditatives ou jazz spirituel. Aller toujours plus loin et plus haut, l'orchestre s'est donné les moyens de mener à bien son évasion sonore en adjoignant à son équipage de base les services d'une harpe ou d'un vibraphone, en modifiant son ADN cuivré de base pour lui greffer des clarinettes, en faisant porter le poids lourd du groove à une contrebasse quand il était jusqu'alors coutume d'en laisser la charge aux claviers. Les destinations s'entremêlent, les ambiances se croisent et c'est sans se perdre dans des durées insensées que seules les oreilles jazzifiées comprennent que le phénix raconte ses épopées en analogique. Les visions cinématographiques ne sont jamais bien loin, à chacun d'y coller ses propres images.

Pop Matters
by Brent Faulkner
April 18th 2014
USA


"Resolved, spirited, and unbreakable". Those three adjectives describe what personally comes to mind from a title like Inner Fire. In other words, each individual possesses his or her own "fire" inside. Whether or not this was the vision of Pierre Chrétien and the Souljazz Orchestra behind Inner Fire is of minimal importance. What is important and notable is that Souljazz Orchestra deliver a truly genre-bending, international music juggernaut in Inner Fire. It encompasses touches of soul, Latin, Afro, and of course jazz, among others. Brief yet loaded, Inner Fire resides among the elite albums regardless of stylistic labels in 2014.

"Initiation" opens Inner Fire, exemplifying its introductory title. Moody and possessing a mysterious darkness, it establishes the tone of the LP. After an unstable beginning, balance settles in through the statement of the melody. Maintaining a minor key, first full-length cut "Kingdom Come" continues to exhibit moodiness, though it does so with an electrifying groove and alluring sounds. Brief but excellent solos courtesy of baritone sax (Ray Murray), trumpet (Ed Lister), and vibes (Chrétien) show top-notch musicianship, while the recurring piano/vibes riff is nothing short of addictive. The brevity of "Kingdom Come" both packs a punch and feels just right in length. The Latin-soul groove of "One Life to Live" definitely highlights the cut. An electrifying flute solo (Zakari Frantz) doesn’t hurt the cause either, definitely part of the Latin-jazz idiom. The vocals—simple iterations of "one life to live"—are reggae-oriented, truly flaunting the eclectic, international vibe of Souljazz Orchestra.

"As the Crow Flies" opens mysteriously, initiated by the vibes, followed by intensification provided from the cymbals on the drums. Dark, shifting piano chords further set up the enigma, until upright bass (Philippe Charbonneau) establishes stability with another irresistible groove. Unsurprisingly, after all instruments settle in on the head, "As the Crow Flies" reveals itself as an excellent song for soloing. "Black Orchid" possesses more of the "soul" part of the ensemble’s name. Sounding like the perfect instrumental background for any soul singer, "Black Orchid" easily gets the foot tapping and the head nodding. The orchestrations are brilliant, not to mention the magnificent featured vibe and tenor sax solos. Follow-up cut "Agoya" definitely has a mean bite and sass about it, driven by the infectiousness of its Latin groove. Manic and energetic are perfect adjectives to describe this standout.

"East Flows the River" provides a contrast, taking the tempo down and returning to a moodier sound. Philippe Lafreniére’s drum groove, aided by Marielle Rivard’s percussion as well, is another soulfully leaning cut. The pacing of "East Flows the River" feels natural, never pushing too fast to reach its climax. After taking time to establish itself, Steve Patterson solos yearningly on tenor, giving the horn a human-like voice. Throw in Chrétien mystical harp playing to close out the cut, and "East Flows the River" is another phenomenal spin from the orchestra. "Sommet En Sommet" picks right where "Agoya" left off with its Latin influences, though it does slow the tempo. The pianistic and vibe role in the "rhythmic machine" of the groove definitely stand out as notable instrumental features. The rhythmic pianistic role is also expanded, later delivering a slick solo as well as increasing the punch of the overall accompaniment.

Penultimate cut "Celestial Blues", penned by Andy Bey, kicks off with bassist Charbonneau receiving one of his few features. Charbonneau ends up setting up another awesome soul groove, but not before it sounds as if he’s going to "pick the bass apart", given his aggressive pizzicato. The Souljazz Orchestra get an assist from percussionist Rivard, who provides lead vocals. Inner Fire closes solidly with outro "Completion". Slow and reflective, "Completion", much like "Initiation", exemplifies its title musically.

Ultimately, Inner Fire is a sensational album from the Canadian-based ensemble. Showing an appealing musical restlessness, Inner Fire is both enjoyable and exceptional. Just missing the 40-minute mark in duration, the album’s brevity proves to be one of its best attributes. With substance and redeeming qualities lying within all 10 tracks (including the briefest in both "Initiation" and "Completion"), only the most hardcore nitpicker can find much wrong.

Dusty Groove
February 2014
Chicago, IL


Easily the best work we've ever heard from the Souljazz Orchestra – a set that pushes their sound way past their Afro Funk-styled roots – into a realm of spiritual sounds that really live up to their name! The jazz component is even stronger than before – really wonderful instrumentation in both the rhythms and solo passages – at a level that's richly expressive and very personal, in a way we never would have expected from these guys a few years back! Elements of different styles run through the music – including an occasional undercurrent of Ethio- jazz or Afro-Cuban grooves – and the lineup includes vibes, tenor, alto, flute, and lots of great percussion. Titles include "Agoya", "East Flows The River", "Sommet En Sommet", "Initiation", "Kingdom Come", "As The Crow Flies", "Black Orchid", "One Life To Live", and "Completion" – plus a version of the Andy Bey classic "Celestial Blues".

Songlines Magazine
by Mark Sampson
April/May 2014
London, UK


The Souljazz Orchestra
Inner Fire

A beefy baritone sax hails the return of the little big band from Ottawa. Whatever they've done to that 8-track Tascam recorder they acquired from the Canadian Mounties, the raucous analogue sound throughout the new album is disproportionately huge: the bass, percussion and horns would give Fela Kuti and sons a run for their money.

This multicultural sextet do a convincing line in Afrobeat. On 'Kingdom Come', the rousing opener, they sound like an Ethiopian big band. With tenor saxophonist Steven Patterson strutting his stuff on 'Black Orchid', they evoke the sound of the great multi-instrumental maverick Roland Kirk in his Atlantic-label heyday. On 'Agoya', they morph into a Willie Colón-like salsa dura combo of the early 70s. And they do it all with so much intensity that it knocks you for six. Solidarity, the band's previous release for Strut (reviewed in #88), garnered awards and much critical acclaim. This time round they've melded its more vocal, heterogeneous approach with that of its jazzier, instrumental predecessor, Rising Sun, and come up with something more coherent and even stronger. For all the diverse influences at work, the SJO deliver fundamentally Afro-jazz with a big funky soul. And it's marvellous.

AllMusic
by Thom Jurek
February 24th 2014
Detroit, MI


On 2012's Solidarity, Ottawa's Souljazz Orchestra collaborated with a host of singers from various traditions. The end result was a melodic, groove-laden expansion of the band's global vision. Inner Fire was recorded in analog and co-produced by bandleader, composer, and multi- instrumentalist Pierre Chrétien and Jason Jakunas. It is easily the group's most diverse outing, and also its most relaxed, but that doesn't mean lazy. "Kingdom Come" features a glorious, staggered horn chart that evokes Salah Ragab-esque Egyptian jazz. Solos from Chrétien's vibes, Ray Murray's baritone, and guest Ed Lister's muted trumpet illuminate the processional Eastern groove. "One Life to Live" uses Afro-beat as its initial engine; the meld of African and Caribbean rhythms provided by drummer Philippe Lafreniere and percussionist Marielle Rivard is intoxicating. "As the Crow Flies" weds samba, Cuban mambo, and Caribbean funk. Steve Berndt's trombone and Zakari Frantz's flute wind around and through the center of the horn chart, punctuated by Steve Patterson's deeply expressive tenor solo. Speaking of Latin, "Agoya" is one of the set's true salsa cookers, with a chunky horn arrangement, burning congas, shekere, claves, and other percussion from Rivard and Lafreniere, with a chanted backing chorus. "East Flows the River" is a slow burner, with moaning (pre-Thomas A. Dorsey style) gospel drones, Egyptian jazz, and blues. "Black Orchid" is a sunny bolero, with funky soul-jazz undertones. And the Afro-Guinean fusion in the 12/8, "Sommet on Sommet," is a stunner. The set's biggest surprise, however, is the cover of "Celestial Blues." Written by Andy Bey during his tenure with Gary Bartz's NTU Troop, it opens with a woody bass solo from Philippe Charbonneau. It's the only tune here with lead vocals, provided in grand '70s spiritual jazz-soul style by Rivard. The shuffling pace is a bit faster in this reading, punctuated by bluesy piano and meaty vibes from Chrétien with a gritty alto solo from Frantz as a topper. Lafreniere's drum kit holds a deep pocket for the ensemble. Inner Fire is a showcase for the Souljazz Orchestra's depth and experience. They can stretch into new areas, melding the vast array of musical styles at their disposal almost instinctively without sacrificing groove in their ambition.

Fleamarket Funk
by DJ Prestige
February 26th 2014
Brooklyn, NY


The Inner Fire of Souljazz Orchestra

One of our all time favorites here at Flea Market Funk, Gary Bartz & NTU Troop’s "Celestial Blues" is a staple on the turntable as well as in our headphones. A song that is damn near perfect. Who would dare to cover it? The Souljazz Orchestra, that’s who. Their cover is tuff and funky, and comes off of their freshly released Inner Fire LP on Strut Records. On this effort as a whole, TSJO expand their horizons, blending global rhythms as well as freaking the Funk in their own way. Staying true to the analog recording technique, Inner Fire takes you on a musical journey all over the world, blending Afro beats, Latin, spiritual elements, Egyptian Jazz, and Eastern sounds and influences to the table.

The original line up since their inception in 2005 of Pierre Chrétien (keyboards), Zakari Frantz (alto sax & flute), Steve Patterson (tenor sax), Ray Murray (baritone sax), Marielle Rivard (percussion) and Philippe Lafrenière (drums) is a combination that has given them much success. The band will take their polished sound on the road this Spring to venues around Europe, hitting the UK, France, and Turkey among other countries. In the past, they’ve already played with such notables such as Pharaoh Sanders, Stevie Wonder, Raphael Saadiq, while also providing live break beats for Ottawa’s B-Boy Finals, showcasing their broad spectrum of sounds. It’s on this record, Inner Fire, where that sound gets fatter. From the Afro-Jazz storm of "Kingdom Come", influenced by the big bands of North Africa to "Black Orchid", a soundtrack fusion of Cuban and Soul Jazz to "Agoya", a straight Latin side guaranteed to make you move, to "East Flows The River", a spiritual journey with Eastern rhythms throughout, Inner Fire is exactly what you want from a band like this: proper diverse sounds. What’s great is they’re very comfortable in all of these different shoes, and that’s apparent. Like Yusef Lateef leaning far on Eastern Sounds (and incorporating different, odd instruments to boot), or Grant Green on The Latin Bit, they take these influences and master them. This record solidifies the Souljazz Orchestra’s sound as one for the future. With their own inner fire burning, their openness to new exploration is quite clear. If you don’t know your past, you can’t know your future, and this band has that formula down to a tee. This fire will be burning for a long time, guaranteed.

Monocle
by Robert Bound
March 2014
London, UK


The Souljazz Orchestra
Inner Fire

Back with their cauldron of internationally cross-pollinated bitches' brew come those crazy globetrotting cats from, you guessed it: Ottawa. This record might just prove that having a pretty free diary means a genuine freedom from constraints of border and genre, a freedom of expression and an appropriate bagginess in the knees. For once, "fusion" is not a term to be sniffed at: samba, salsa, bossa, afro-jazz, highlife and spirituals are all represented in tracks that ping equally out of superfly improvisation and knuckle-tight arrangements. It has become its own thing: the genre that defies the term. Whatever you'd like to call this happy collision, the Souljazz Orchestra own it. Who'd argue with Louis Armstrong? That "there are only two types of music - good music and bad music". File under good.

Clash Magazine
by Peter Adkins
February 2014
UK


Long championed by the likes of Gilles Peterson and coming on the back of 2012's acclaimed 'Solidarity', Canadian six-piece The Souljazz Orchestra return with another generous fusion of jazz, Afrobeat and Latino sounds. Recorded in their favoured analogue style, 'Inner Fire' further exhibits the group's penchant for drawing on a wide net of global music traditions and bombastically forging them into something uniquely their own. From the full-bodied alto horns of 'Kingdom Come' to the salsa-flavoured 'Agoya', on to a fantastic cover of Gary Bartz's 'Celestial Blues', the album zips from one lively hybrid to another. Good-time music at its most technically innovative and infectiously optimistic.

Focus Vif
par Laurent Hoebrechts
le 7 mars 2014
Bruxelles, Belgique


The Souljazz Orchestra
"Inner Fire"

Fondé en 2002, le sextet mené par Pierre Chrétien n'a cessé de tenir les promesses affichées dans son nom. De la soul donc et du jazz, dans la grande tradition seventies, quand l'un et l'autre genre se joignaient pour raconter la condition black, entre politique et cosmique, façon Art Ensemble of Chicago. Plus varié que jamais, Inner Fire bouillonne, frémit, le groove chevillé au corps, même dans ses moments les plus "empâtés" (Black Orchid). De saillies latino euphorisantes (Agoya) en afrofunk (Sommet En Sommet, One Life To Live) en passant par des relents ethiojazz (Initiation), Inner Fire brûle de mille feux. Un vrai brasier.

Le Droit
par Yves Bergeras
le 15 février 2014
Ottawa, ON


The Souljazz Orchestra
Inner Fire

Inner Fire ne sort pas avant le 25 février, mais le Souljazz Orchestra le lance en primeur mondiale ce soir, au Petit Chicago, alors on se permet ! Le sextuor d’Ottawa-Gatineau n’a pas fini de faire groover la planète, et ce sixième opus n’a rien à envier aux précédents, même si ce n’est pas le plus endiablé du lot. Ses vibrations sont plus feutrées. Plus soul – ce truc igné qui leur flambe l’intérieur ! Avec classe et efficacité, Inner Fire métisse les rythmiques afrobeat, afrolatines et latin-jazz ou plus orientales. Presque sans un mot. La percussionniste Marielle Rivard glisse sa voix sur Celestial Blues, vieux classique "spiritual soul-jazz" repiqué à Andy Bey. On a du mal à dépasser la piègeuse deuxième piste, Kingdom Come, sublime mélodie qu’on se boucle ad nauseam. Pourtant, tout le reste est fluide et chaleureux, porté par les cuivres et les claviers vintage. Le Soujazz repassera à Ottawa le 15 mars, au Babylon, avant de s’envoler pour l’Europe.

Exclaim! Magazine
by Ryan B. Patrick
March 8th 2014
Toronto, ON


Concert Review:
Souljazz Orchestra - The Garrison, Toronto ON, March 7

There is something deeply captivating about Afrobeat-styled rhythms. Brass and bass join forces to create a hypnotic groove that has you moving before you know it.

Ottawa's Souljazz Orchestra have this West African funk template down pat and expand on it with jazz, blues and Latin styles all up in the mix. The six piece band — frontman/composer Pierre Chrétien on keys, Marielle Rivard on percussion/vocals, Philippe Lafrenière on drums, and Ray Murray, Steve Patterson and Zakari Frantz on brass — sound double that once they get things rolling.

Cuts from latest album Inner Fire were the highlights of the night, as Rivard's smooth vocals on "Celestial Blues," the call-and- response friendly "Agoya" and the hypnotic "One Life to Live" particularly stood out. It proved that while Inner Fire is indeed a solid project, the live concert experience is how the songs are truly meant to be experienced. The Garrison's sound system supported the band solidly on this night.

It was a rather late-night two-part set with the decision to have a 25-30 minute intermission in between. With the laid-back Chrétien coordinating things behind keys, each member possesses unique charisma, with the energetic Frantz on alto sax and Murray on vocals keeping the crowd participation angle going in particular. Currently on the Strut label, the sextet also dipped into their earlier Toronto-based Do Right Records discography (think early albums like Manifesto and Freedom No Go Die) for good measure.

"Have Afrobeat, will travel," seems to be the evergreen motto for the Souljazz Orchestra, and it's a perspective that they wear on their collective sleeves. "Thanks for supporting us hardcore," noted Murray during the set. "We encourage you to dance."

Throughout it all, there was an innocent earnestness and an elevated energy about it that got everybody smiling while they caught themselves vibing to the groove.

Exclaim! Magazine
by Matt Bauer
February 21st 2014
Toronto, ON


The Souljazz Orchestra - Inner Fire

No matter how you want to define their sound, there's no doubt that Ottawa's Souljazz Orchestra has an uncanny ability to seamlessly blend afrobeat, jazz, latin, highlife, tropical and hip-hop into a unique and identifiable entity of uncut groove guaranteed to get you on the dance floor. The ensemble's sixth effort, Inner Fire, is a more subdued affair than 2012's Solidarity, but it sustains that album's vibe of analog goodness, not to mention the Orchestra's inspired eclecticism.

Opener "Kingdom Come" marries alluring Ethiopian jazz with vigorous Latin horn charts. "As the Crow Flies" is a moody detour into bossa-nova, while "Black Orchid" is a mellow, picturesque slice of jazz funk. Lest their ability to ignite a party be forgotten, "Agoya" finds the orchestra firing on all cylinders with an ass-shaking salsa sizzle. An inspired cover of Gary Bartz Ntu Troop's 1971 classic "Celestial Blues" admirably doesn't stray far from the original but is updated with enough of a hip-hop-influenced edge that its life-affirming message of spiritual consciousness should appeal to a new generation. Inner Fire further cements the Souljazz Orchestra in a class of their own on the world music circuit.

Ottawa Magazine
by Fateema Sayani
February 2014
Ottawa, ON


SOUND SEEKERS: The Souljazz Orchestra Shows Its Diversity on Inner Fire

The Souljazz Orchestra‘s new album feels like a grand tour. The 10-song album Inner Fire (Strut Records) cycles through styles, showing off beautiful fluency in Afro and Latin genres with nods to big band and hip-hop. It’s a showcase of the six-piece band’s musical diversity. While previous albums underscored the group’s deep appreciation for spiritual jazz, roots music, and the work of Fela Kuti, Inner Fire offers a fuller menu of the band’s influences.

"It’s a bit like Coltrane meeting Ebo Taylor and Willie Colon, with Madlib producing," Pierre Chretien (vibraphone, piano, harp, guitar) told Sound Seekers during the making of the album. Chretien wrote most of the tracks on Inner Fire, which was recorded at Jason Jaknunas’ Metropolitan Studios in Ottawa. This album — The Souljazz Orchestra’s sixth release — sees percussionists Phillipe Lafreniere and Marielle Rivard at front and centre. Both shine in their roles as primary vocalists on the tracks "Agoya" and "Celestial Blues," respectively.

The song is a soulful hip-hoppin’ cover of the 1971 Andy Bey track. Souljazz Orchestra sax player Ray Murray turned the rest of the band on to the tune years ago. "The lyrics are beautiful, spiritual, and uplifting, without being too preachy or dogmatic," Chretien says. The band filled out the originally sparse song with a bumpin’ arrangement of trumpet, trombone, flute, alto sax, bass clarinet, vibraphone, piano, upright bass, and percussion.

























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