UK band Afro Elements have a long and chequered history that goes way back to 1995 when their first single ‘Chocolat’ made waves on the underground dance scene – winning a place on one of Naked Music’s famed compilations. Band members have also collaborated on the Mr Gone Project and with Down To The Bone. Working with the name Black Gold Massive they won acclaim with their ‘Stories’ LP but using their main moniker, they officially debuted with ‘It Remains To Be Seen’. As well as recording and touring in their own right The Elements have been the backing band of choice for visiting US jazzers – notably Eddie Henderson, Gary Bartz and Reuben Wilson. The band has just released this, their latest LP, and with a such a pedigree it’s little wonder that the ten tracker is brimming with soul and jazz excellence. What’s more their standing is such that they can call on some big names to help them deliver. Here the core members (Simon T Bramley – Bass, Keys, vocals; Phil Nelson – Drums, Percussion; Neil Hunter – Fender Rhodes; Robin Jones – percussion; Andreas Hagiioannu – Guitar; Tommy Emmerton – Guitar; Jörgen Vedeler – Trombone; and Tim Smart – Trombone) are assisted by guitarist Barry Finnerty (ex Crusaders and Brecker Brothers), Graeme Flowers (The Sunburst Band), Andy Ross (Incognito) and vocalists Fraser Jowle and Cherri V.
And it’s that pair that kick things off in fine style with the soulful opener ‘It Feels So Good’ – a mix of all kinds of feels and flavours – Acid Jazz, soulful house, hints of Incognito, a soupcon of Jamiroquai and a garnish of the BNHs. The vocal pairing is effortless and the whole thing is chock-a-block with energy and vitality. Jowle’s out on his own on the snappy, popping-bass ‘Your Eyes’, the lovely, melodic, retro flavoured ‘Lift Your Life’ and the harmonic ‘(You’re Just A) Waste Of Time’.
The set’s other 6 cuts are instrumentals allowing the band members to stretch out and do what they do best. Most immediate cut is a moody and atmospheric version of The Beatles ‘Eleanor Rigby’. An odd choice at first glance but if you think about it, back in the 60s the soul-jazz giants often dipped into the Fab 4’s bag for covers and here Afro Elements do as good a job on the classic as say, Grant Green might have done in the day. Elsewhere expect big, brash, brassy workouts like the funky ‘Formosa’ or the energized ‘The Sherriff’.
This album’s been out for a month or so now and already it’s picking up airplay from discerning DJs. It’s currently sitting at 7 on the Solar Radio Sweet Rhythm charts and is mainstay on Starpoint Radio and Jazz FM. Join those tastemakers by visiting www.afroelements.com