Inner Fire, the latest release from the Souljazz Orchestra, is the first truly great album of 2014. It is also both the first great new jazz record of the year, and one of the best new indie records of the year, too. Those that might not be so familiar with the music of The Souljazz Orchestra will find it rather interesting that the multi-member band is based out of Ottowa, Ontario Canada, yet is known for the distinct Latin sound crafted throughout its catalogue. It really serves to show the universality of music. That familiar sound is present onInner Fire, too. Right off the top, the band engages audiences with ‘Initiation’ and ‘Kingdom Come.’ While they are two separate songs, listeners will note that the transition between the pair and their similar sound makes them essentially one whole. It’s just one part of what makes the two-part piece the proper opening for this record. The band picks things up and really gets listeners moving in the album’s very next song, ‘One Life To Live.’ And speaking of getting listeners moving, the album’s final full song, ‘Celestial Blues’ will definitely get listeners moving, too with its hybrid jazz/hip-hop sound. It’s one more of so many tracks on this ten-song album that makes it more than deserving of the title of one of 2014’s Best New Albums, as well as one of 2014’s Best New Jazz albums and one of 2014’s Best New Indie Albums.
Inner Fire is a wonderful introduction for anyone that is new to the music of The Souljazz Orchestra, and just as enjoyable for those that are more familiar with the band’s sound. This is proven right from the album’s outset thanks to its two-part opener. ‘Initiation’and ‘Kingdom Come’ make up that introduction. The first of the two “movements” comes in at a little more than a minute long, while the second runs roughly four minutes and fourteen seconds. In total, the two tracks total five minutes and thirty-one seconds. Over the course of that little more than five and a half minutes, there is so much going on, yet it all manages to somehow gel to make something entirely ingenious. Simply put, the song’s overall Latin feel is set against a hip-hop beat played on what sounds like timbales and a drum kit. To add to the song’s interest, the sax solo played either by Steve Patterson or Zakari Frantz has something of a semi-Middle Eastern vibe. Considering all of this, no one would expect such a mix to work. Yet somehow it does. And listeners will be surprised at how easily it will have them dancing and wanting to hear it again and again. Add in the band’s horns and listeners get a song that is easily one of this album’s absolute best songs and justifiably the best song with which to open this album.
The energy established by Inner Fire’s dual opener doesn’t let up a bit as the band transitions into the album’s second full length song (and third overall on the album), ‘One Life To Live.’ This equally up-tempo piece has its own fire about it, pardon the pun. The energy exuded by the song complements the song’s simple lyrics so well. The band members sing in this piece, “One life to live/And nothing less/One life to live/So live it well.” Save for one short verse, which states, “You never know/If tomorrow will be your last/So today/You’d better wake up”, there is nothing else to the song. And that’s not a bad thing, either. The band is encouraging listeners to grab the day and make the most of it every day. It succeeds quite well, too. It will most certainly put listeners in a positive mindset, and in turn lead them to spread that same positive energy to everyone they know. To that extent, it shows why ‘One Life To Live’ is one more wonderful addition to this latest release from The Souljazz Orchestra.
The Souljazz Orchestra proves time and again throughout the course of Inner Fire just why this record deserves to be placed on so many “Best Of” lists despite the fact that 2014 is still very young. The songs already noted are part of that proof. There is one more song on this album that serves as a great example of why listeners old and new will enjoy this record. That song is the album’s penultimate track–and its last full length song—‘Celestial Blues.’ Just as with the album’s opener, this song is another hybrid “jazz-hop” piece that is sure to have any listener dancing along. The song’ hip-hop beat conjures thoughts of Naughty By Nature’s ‘O.P.P.’ while the jazzier side gives the song a lighter feel. The two elements combined together make this song just as enjoyable of as the album’s dual track opener. And after hearing this song and the remainder of the album’s tracks, listeners old and new will agree that it’s not the only welcome addition to the album, either. It’s just the conclusion to an album that more than deserves a spot on so many “Best Of” lists by the year’s end. Audiences will get to hear those songs and more when the band performs live in Istanbul, Turkey. The band’s most up-to-date tour listings are available along with all of the latest news from the band online at http://www.facebook.com/souljazzorchestra and http://www.souljazzorchestra.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.