Souljazz Orchestra Find Their Voice for 'Resistance'

BY Michael J. WarrenPublished Sep 4, 2015

Most bands would rather not have to audition lead singers 15 years into their career, just as they are recording their seventh album. But for Ottawa's Souljazz Orchestra, originally an instrumental outfit, that proved to be an organic and mostly familiar part of the recording process.

Having decided that their upcoming release Resistance would be the group's first fully vocal-driven album, rather than enlist a string of featured guests, they instead threw each member in front of the microphone.

"We each got a chance to try singing lead on them, and then we compared the different versions and picked the ones with the best vocals," explains keyboardist and composer Pierre Chrétien in an interview with Exclaim! "It was interesting."

That exercise was the sort of healthy competition that could either propel performances or create conflict. Fortunately, it appears that the latter was avoided, but was it easy to pick a individual winners amongst the members?

"Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But in the end the final versions are what we wanted."

As for all these alternative mixes sitting on Souljazz's 24 track? "Maybe one day when we do the reissue," Chrétien jokes.

Resistance also expands on the already broad scope of influences that have moulded the Orchestra's style, both in terms of incorporating more Francophone sounds, as well as the sonic character of the album. Where in the past they've put records out in mono with gain inputs cranked for nostalgic effect, Resistance sounds noticeably wider and cleaner.

"In our scene for a while, it was very centred on the '60s and '70s and getting that purist James Brown aesthetic. I think it's healthy that it's breaking out of that and people are starting to look forward and try new things without being too retro."

Of course, what is and isn't retro is up for a debate, but the presence of synthesizers and even an 808 is certainly a step outside Souljazz's usual box.

"There might be a little bit of an '80s influence on some of the tracks too, or late '70s disco. I've also been listening to a lot of big band music from the '40s and '50s from the Caribbean, so you'll hear some of that too, the really big band horn arrangements. It's interesting taking the best of each era and putting it together."

Resistance is out today (September 4) through Do Right! Music. The Souljazz Orchestra will be touring Europe for six weeks this fall, as well as across Canada in November. You can see the currently confirmed dates over here

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