The Souljazz Orchestra
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The Souljazz Orchestra

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Band Jazz Soul


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Gilles Peterson"

"That's made for music, that is. Souljazz Orchestra, from Canada!" - BBC Radio 1 (London, UK)

"Andrew Jervis"

"Afrobeat coming your way!" - Ubiquity Records (San Francisco, USA)

"Record Review"

Souljazz Orchestra
Freedom No Go Die
(Funk Manchu)
By Matt Bauer
November 10, 2006

Fela Kuti is dead but his spirit is alive and well on the Souljazz Orchestra’s Freedom No Go Die. On their sophomore disc the Ottawa quintet (joined by Rwandan/ Burundian artist Mighty Popo on three tracks) craft a sound as tight as the power fists that adorn the cover. Songs of resistance, revolution and positivity in the best of the Afrobeat tradition are the matters of the day here with titles like: "Mr. President" and "The Blind Leading the Blind" bringing politics to the forefront. But it is searing instrumentals like the mid-tempo "Insurrection", with Pierre Chrétien’s percolating clavinet and bottom heavy bass as well as Philippe Lafrenière’s congas and urgent percussion that drive the groove home. Other outstanding tracks include the slow burning "Mojuba" and a cover of Pharoah Sanders’ "The Creator Has A Master Plan" (featuring fellow Ottawan Marielle Rivard on vocals) that steadily maintains a funky yet meditative pulse thanks to some tasteful flute and an intense sax solo. Freedom No Go Die? Not as long as outfits like the Souljazz Orchestra continue to make music like this.
- Exclaim! Magazine (Toronto, Canada)

"Sounds From The Urban Jungle"

The roots might be African but the Souljazz Orchestra is strictly homegrown
By Allan Wigney

Ray Murray, whose booming baritone saxophone puts the Afro in so many of The Souljazz Orchestra's Afrobeat originals, wishes to make himself clear on the issue of the 'authenticity' of his Ottawa and Gatineau-based quintet's take on African funk.

"We all have heroes in our lives and for us that is Fela," he begins, acknowledging the musical and political influence of the late king of Nigerian music on the local combo's spirited sounds. "But you would never ask Fela, 'Are you trying to play authentic jazz?' The roots we have also enter into it."

"We are Ottawa guys," resident keyboardist/songwriter/arranger Pierre Chretien adds. "We're not pretending to be from Nigeria."

Fair enough. But while lost in the inspired music of Souljazz's brilliant sophomore CD, Freedom No Go Die, listeners' feet, hips and minds can be forgiven for reacting as they might to the power of vintage Fela works like Coffin for Head of State. Or for mistaking the percussion-work of Philippe Lafreniere for that of Tony Allen.

Having The Mighty Popo around to assist with the writing and performing of three tracks can't hurt. But the strength of Freedom No Go Die lies with the playing of Souljazz's core quintet. And likely owes a great deal to the band's ongoing Thursday-night residency at Babylon.

"The weekly gig's been great," says Chretien, who is entering his final year of composition studies at the University of Ottawa. "When you play every week you don't have a choice, you have to get better."
- The Ottawa Sun (Ottawa, Canada)

"Bringin' In Da Funk"

Souljazz Orchestra keeps Babylon rocking on Thursday nights
By Stephen Flood

For several years the Thursday night house band at Babylon nightclub was an extremely popular reggae outfit called Raggamuffin. Lately there's been a changing of the guard, though in some ways the song remains the same, with the extra bonus of a few new styles blended into the musical recipe.

"Ray (Murray), one of our two saxophone players is [part] Jamaican, and has played in some reggae and dub bands before," says Pierre Chrétien, keyboardist and spokesperson for the five-piece Souljazz Orchestra, the current musical overlords of the Thursday night Babylon dance floor. "And I'm a huge fan of Augustus Pablo, and have incorporated his melodica sound into the array of keyboards I play."

What other ingredients does the quintet bring to a boil in their weekly residency? First up is the tightly coiled funk of James Brown, Parliament and Funkadelic.

"Funk is definitely one of the biggest parts of the Souljazz Orchestra formula," muses Chrétien. "Everybody in the band is basically a vinyl junkie, and we're always searching for new sounds, new directions. And especially in collecting old jazz records it became apparent that almost all the biggest names in jazz turned their attention at some point in the '70s towards funk, so it seemed totally infectious."

Another enormous influence on the Souljazz Orchestra has been the late, great Fela Kuti. The premiere name in Afro beat and Afro jazz, Kuti released an enormous body of awe-inspiring work that was at turns complex and completely sensual and visceral.

'A genius'

"Yeah, we all started listening to African music a couple of years ago, and especially Fela," Pierre enthuses. "I mean what can you say? The guy was clearly a genius. And it was more than just being about a good beat, because he studied classical music in London, and it enabled him to structure these 20-minute opuses built on African rhythms that were very direct and inspiring."

Playing with the utmost energy, and interspering 50% originals alongside the music of the masters who moved them, the Souljazz Orchestra is indeed the ultimate party band, having played well over 100 concerts in the last year alone. But Chrétien wants to make one thing perfectly clear.

"We are definitely not a jam band," Chrétien states firmly.

"In the original compositions I write a number of heads, with a little room for improvisation, but all in all our pieces are quite focused. And we practise our material rigourously, because there's no way you're going to sound like the tightly coiled rhythm machine that Parliament [or] Fela Kuti is if you're [not] dedicated to what you do."

Future plans for the Souljazz Orchestra also include a dedication to keeping things deliciously open-ended. Because in every recipe there is room for additional spicing.

"Every week we have a different guest, often singers who will sing lead or join us in the ensemble, funk chant vocals we always use," concludes Chrétien, before adding slyly, "and I'm a huge fan of avant garde jazz and the locked grooves of house music, so I'd like to see those elements making their way into the mix."
- The Ottawa Citizen (Ottawa, Canada)

"Dossier Afrobeat et AfroFunk"

Ecrit par Martin Smith pour

[...] Restons au Canada, car on ne peut oublier le Souljazz Orchestra. Deux opus au compteur, le premier aux grooves très jazzy, et surtout le second, "Freedom No Go Die", aux forts accents afrobeat, latin et même caribéens ! Accents car le groove dégagé par ces très bons musiciens d'Ottawa leur est bien propre. Ils ont leur son et peuvent difficilement être catalogués. C'est du Souljazz Orchestra à forte consonance afrobeat et ça envoie grave, tabernacle ! Encore du très haut niveau...
- Fonkadelica (Paris, France)


Still working on that hot first release.



Currently at a loss for words...