floating points, pharoah sanders & the london symphony orchestra – movements 4 + 5
syl johnson – is it because i’m black
yusef lateef – nubian lady
ernest ranglin – in the rain
makaya mccraven – everybody cool
idris muhammad – loran’s dance (beasties edit)
art feynman – can’t stand it
illa j – all good
friendkerrek – 30ms7
n’dambi – lonely woman
lonnie smith – babbitt’s other song
mathias modica – le sud
nas feat lauryn hill – nobody
slum village feat d’angelo – tell me
fitz gore and the talismen – musication 1
smash hunter – superstar
mf doom – doomsday
sade – kiss of life
ultra nate – twisted
van morrison – you don’t pull no punches, but you don’t push the river



Movements 4+5 – Sam Shepherd AKA Floating Points continues to reinvent himself and his sound and push the boundaries of DJing and producing far beyond your average beat junkie. This collaboration with Pharoah Sanders, one of the greatest remaining living Jazz legends, and the London Symphony Orchestra is no exception. This kid is 10 steps ahead of everybody. Hopefully he gets into soundtracks soon, so Hans Zimmer can take a break. Pharaoh’s tone is, as always, unmistakable and wonderful and soulful and playful and unpredictable in all the ways that makes him a true maverick.

Is It Because I’m Black – Sylvester Thompson aka Syl Johnson was born in Lanar, Mississippi in 1936, the same year as my own father. His family migrated to Chicago in the early 50s, where he quickly picked up Blues guitar, becoming a regular session player while still in his teens. He made a demo of 2 of his own songs on one of those “record your voice” machines you’d find in an arcade. On his way to deliver it to Vee-Jay records, he passed the Chicago office of the great Cincinnati Soul label, King Records. He walked in there instead, and they signed him on the spot. For the next 15 years he recorded a slew of 45s for King subsidiary Federal Records, as well as a handful of scrappy Chicago labels. He didn’t make the charts until 1967, with “Different Strokes”, a certified soul stomper and eventual staple of Hip Hop DJs and producers. Later Syl moved to Hi Records, where he made wonderful music with the same Hi Rhythm Section band backing Al Green and Ann Peebles. This song, from the 1969 alum of the same name, is considered to be his masterpiece. Released over a year before Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”, many consider this the first Black concept album. The raw emotion and bare truth of the lyrics struck a chord with Black America, and laid the groundwork for a lot of soulful protest music to come.

Nubian LadyYusef Lateef was born William Emanuel Huddleston in Chattanooga, Tennesse. The year was 1920. His family migrated to Detroit, where he established his rep as an accomplished multi-instrumentalist as a teenager. He played in Swing bands with future Detroit Jazz legends like Elvin Jones, Milt Jackson and Kenny Burrell. In the 40s he found his way into the Ahmadiyya sect, America’s first significant Muslim community, establishing multi-racial collectives in Chicago, Detroit, DC, Cleveland and St Louis by the early 1920s. William was soon reborn as Yusef, and the rest is history. He came to prominence in the 60s, bringing his Eastern-influenced Jazz sounds to Savoy records. This slow flute groover is side A track 1 of “The Gentle Giant”, released in 1971 on Atlantic. The great Ray Bryant on electric piano and Albert Heath from the Heath Brothers on drums.

In The Rain – Reggae guitar legend and composer Ernest Ranglin dubbing out his 1983 cover of The Dramatics’ classic. This was remastered and reissued in 2019 on my new favorite UK label, Emotional Rescue – who are on a mission to unearth long forgotten disco reggae gems and put them out on wax again. They’re doing Jah Works, fe sure.

Everybody Cool – I have sung this album’s praises in previous mix liner notes, because it’s one of the few records in recent years that I tend to listen to in its entirety. Usually in the background while cooking, or organizing vinyl, or some kind of likeminded, deep focus task. It was released in 2020 as an addendum to Makaya McCraven’s 2018 “Universal Beings”. It’s like a Dilla beat tape improvised by live musicians, which makes it so much richer and deeper than the plethora of low effort, “Lo-Fi” Hip Hop that saturates Soundcloud and Spotify.

Loran’s Dance – Though I definitely first heard this 1974 Idris Muhammad song sampled on The Beastie Boys’ “Paul’s Boutique” LP, way back when, I actually came to know it through a Reggae cover Vin Gordon did with the Mudie All Stars, which appeared on the 2001 Soul Jazz comp “500% Dynamite”, which is packed front to back with wickedness. I snuck the Beasties song in here, just cuz I miss hearing Yauch’s voice. RIP.

Can’t Stand It – I don’t even know how to describe this song, but I loved it the first time I heard it. Art Feynman is one of those eclectic type of cats, like David Byrne or Arthur Russell, that draws musical influences from the Pop zeitgeist and Africa and The Caribbean and Berlin and beyond – thoroughly defying categorization. This is a good goal for all of us IMO. He’s best know from his former group, Here We Go Magic. This came out in 2017 on his “Blast Off Through the Wicker” LP. You also gotta love a guy born with a ready-made celebrity name like Luke Temple that changes his name to Art Feynman – who sounds more like a Brighton Beach chartered accountant in a Woody Allen flashback.

All Good – Just another crispy Dilla beat for his little brother Illa J, from his 2008 “Yancey Boys” LP, which is chock full o beats from start to finish. The funny, sad-sack sample is from Ray ‘Funky Trumpet’ Davies’ cover of Burt Bacharach’s “Look of Love”.

30ms7 - Just a groovy beat segue with delayed, layered snares from New Orleans soundscaper Friendkerrek.

Lonely Woman – A throwback to N’dambi’s first album “Little Lost Girls Blues“, released in 1998 when Neo Soul was still a phrase you’d hear bandied about regularly. This track almost feels like an interlude, but I can get down with the mood it’s serving up. N’dambi’s last release was a 2018 collaboration with All Cows Eat Grass front-man T.Brown. called Air Castle – still available on Bandcamp and elsewhere.

Babbitt’s Other Song – 2021 was an absolutely devastating and depressing year for losing musicians, among them Dr Lonnie Smith, a storied Jazz & Funk keyboardist who got his start with the George Benson Quartet in 1966. He released solo LPs on Blue Note, Kudu, Groove Merchant and many other prominent jazz labels, right up until his passing. He usually wore a turban, though oddly enough it didn’t have any religious significance. He just thought it was cool. And it was. The Babbitt in the song’s title refers to session bass player Bobb Babbitt, who played on this and countless Funk and Soul classics, including Dennis Coffey’s “Scorpio”, Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going’ On’, and Ben E King’s “Supernatural Thing”.

Le Sud – Some Kraut Jazz niceness from Berlin producer Mathias Modica, who often records under the pseudonyms Kapote and/or Munk. He also runs not one but three great indie Berlin record labels: Gomma, Kryptox, and Toy Tonics. This came out in May of this year on his “Sonic Rohstoff” LP, where he plays every instrument and fills the entire record with likeminded downtempo grooves.

Nobody – The great thing about Nas to me is that I can go years without really paying attention to any of his records, but when I finally do stop to take a listen, they’re still great. Still poetic. Still profound. Still effortlessly lacing us with lyrical gems because that’s just what Nas does. Here he crafts a song about longing to escape, to find safety, to find clarity, to be nobody – brilliantly drafting Lauryn Hill to join him in this plea. Both murder their verses, and both speak from a place of personal turmoil and introspection. Which, when you get down to it, is precisely what Hip Hop has always been about. This is just half of Lauryn’s verse. Diva antics aside, you simply cannot deny her flow:

All my time has been focused on my freedom now
Why would I join ‘em when I know that I can beat ‘em now?
They put their words on me, and they can eat ‘em now
That’s probably why they keep on tellin’ me I’m needed now
They tried to box me out while takin’ what they want from me
I spent too many years living too uncomfortably
Making room for people who didn’t like the labor
Or wanted the spoils, greedy, selfish behavior
Now let me give it to you balanced and with clarity
I don’t need to turn myself into a parody
I don’t I don’t do the shit you do for popularity
They clearly didn’t understand when I said “I Get Out” apparently
My awareness like Keanu in The Matrix
I’m savin’ souls and y’all complainin’ ’bout my lateness
Now it’s illegal for someone to walk in greatness
They want the same shh, but they don’t take risks

Tell Me – Another down low LP cut from Slum Village’s “Fantatsic Vol. 2” (2000). D’angelo sits in with Dilla to layer in some very restrained keys, in that signature way that only cool ass mofos like him can. This album remains one of the great slept on Hip Hop records of the 2000s – if not ever. If you’re not already among us, listen to Lawrence Fishburne and wake the fuck up.

Musication I – This dude Fitz Gore is a new discovery for me. I heard Spinna play this on a mix earlier this year and was immediately like “um, who the hell is THIS?”. Sounded Ethiopian, but not quite. Modal but funky. Thanks for the heads up, Vincent. Fitz was born in Jamaica in the mid-30s, migrating to Europe in search of other wayward expatriate Jazz musicians. He hooked up with with cats like Dexter Gordon and Mal Waldron in Paris, and eventually settled in Bonn, Germany, where he formed his group The Talismen (dope name fr). They recorded only a handful of albums in the mid 70s, releasing them on their own German imprint, Gorbra records. In 2009 his wife Gisela curated a retrospective of his recordings for Jazzaggression / Plastic Strip Press (Norway), bringing his very rare grooves into the 21st Century for us all to hear.

Superstar - This is a certified DJ Smash (Hunter) classic that was a staple at Giant Step and every other Acid Jazz party worth its weight in Triple 5 Soul beanies in the early 90s. My copy is beaten to death, but thankfully many of Smash’s early 12” cuts were reissued on compilations by Eightball Digital in 2016.

Doomsday – Yet another brilliant voice in music that we tragically lost this year. I’ve talked about my peripheral interactions with MF Doom before, back in the early 90s when we knew him as Zev Love X from KMD. It was another 6 or 7 years before his debut album came out under his new pseudonym. This was the very first track, and his legend just grew and grew from there. Props to my old friends Dante and Bobbito for recognizing his brilliance and helping to bring his exceptional gifts to the world. RIP.

Kiss of Life – Hearing this sampled on the previous song compelled me to run the original. This is from Sade’s 1992 masterpiece, Love Deluxe, which really doesn’t have a bad song on it IMO. I think Sade is kind of a hard sell to newer generations. The sax and sultry polish of it all just oozes 90s smooth jazz radio. I have a hunch it’s hard for those that weren’t there to recognize the difference between this and so much of the cheesy elevator muzak that mimicked it so closely. But who feels it, knows it. Feel me?

You Don’t Pull No Punches, But You Don’t Push The River – This is a rapturous, rambling stream of consciousness jam from Van Morrison’s under-appreciated “Veedon Fleece” LP, which was a complete flop upon its release in 1974. He was back in Ireland, putting aside his straight up R&B grooves for some kind of weird, Celtic / Free Jazz / Soul hybrid that few others could vibe with. But that was then. Now many critics consider it wildly ambitious and and a quintessential representation of his unbridled musical genius and poetic brilliance. Put me in that camp. Thanks for listening!

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