The Souljazz Orchestra

Inner Fire

BY Matt BauerPublished Feb 21, 2014

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.

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