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Inner Fire

The Souljazz Orchestra: Inner Fire

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Ahmed El Dahan
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The Souljazz Orchestra: Inner Fire

While musicologists have tried time and time again to hypothesise the reasons as to why humans make music, their research has only brought with it vague and inconclusive results. Some argue its part of humanity’s drive to appreciate beauty, while others will delve deeper and insist that it is a subconscious necessity to create organised sound. While it rarely happens, there are artists that create music so powerful that academic discussions are temporarily halted.

The Souljazz Orchestra is a six piece band of multi instrumentalists hailing from Ottawa, Canada. Sitting on the keys and guitars, amongst other instruments, Pierre Chrétien is deemed the group’s leader and chief composer.

Under his direction, the orchestra present a fine blend of musical genres; from Afro-Cuban, Latin and Caribbean to West Coast hip-hop, these guys have proven repeatedly that they are the masters of pushing genres to unexplored aural depths. Their music is a mesh of catchy wind hooks, punchy percussions and the most daring of solos.

Their latest studio release, Inner Fire, features mellow opening and closing tracks – ‘Initiation’ and ‘Completion’ respectively; the rest of the compositions, as the album’s title suggests, are a fiery mix of music, with the power to get even the most reserved listener up and jumping.

The drums hip-hop beat on ‘Black Orchid’ keeps time for a warm arrangement of horns, vibraphone and keys that perfectly recreates the sound of the African American’s expression of urban life; laid back and breezy, with an undertone of a melancholy struggles.

The same style appears again on ‘Celestial Blues’, although the latter features more singing and saxophone work. Interestingly, the horn section plays in unison with Marielle Rivard’s vocals in the majority of the song.

‘Kingdom Come’ boasts the band’s inspiration from Ethiopian music, particularly of Ethiopian jazz musician, Mulatu Astaqe. While the horns play the main theme with a Mexican Mariachi sound, the baritone saxophone can be easily be mistaken for a clarinet as it plays its East African solo, while the occasional pluck of the harp gives the track a random hint of the orient. The music possesses a unique capability to be both uplifting and yet haunting at the same time, as if one is approaching a tamed, but dangerous, animal. 

Drifting to the South American region, ‘Agoya’ is a Samba driven party tune with a funky pentatonic hook and cheeky brass solos. The most fun part of the song is the spoken Spanish, yelled on top of the piano’s repetitive Salsa riff. Production wise, the song is a great example of the typical sound that the Souljazz Orchestra have spent years refining; recorded with analogue equipment and featuring a strong emphasis on the sound of deeper horns. 

Inner Fire is nothing less than a melting pot of border-breaking, passionate musicality. While the Souljazz Orchestra resists notions of classification, we’ll claim their style as some of the greatest World Music available to your ears today.

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