Jimi Tenor & Kabu Kabu Joystone

Jimi Tenor has been around for some 20 years and has been burdened with labels like "the Barry White of Finland” and "the Elton John of jazz.” By those tags, one wouldn’t think that he’s released music on such labels as Warp, Kitty Yo and now Ubiquity. Joystone is a sharp left turn into Afrobeat accompanied by Kabu Kabu, who worked with Fela and the cream of the very active Finnish jazz scene. It’s pretty late in the game to be jumping on the Afrobeat bandwagon but Tenor takes these rhythms to places they’ve never been. Joystone is a grandiose, smarmy, funky, cosmic experience. His arranging skills are on brilliant display — this is the only disc I’ve ever heard that integrates an eager-to-please, neo-Henry Mancini pop vibe with Afrobeat. Kabu Kabu deliver first rate rhythmic content, which is bolstered with great harmonic movement, melodic brilliance and fiery soloing. The dark and jagged keyboard sounds prevent the album from sounding one-dimensional and feature a wide array of vintage gear, with serious pitch wheel abuse on many tracks. Best of all is the lack of concern for authenticity. Tenor’s fluffy lyrics about "heaven in your eyes” and "love is the only God” are hilariously banal and delivered with a thin whisper that hardly bears out the Barry White comparisons. But the perverse mixes and deep space production recall the most oblique records of Impulse’s ’70s years. Heck, this disc stacks up well with contemporary electro jazz on Thirsty Ear. (Ubiquity)