The Souljazz Orchestra picks up where the golden age of soulful music left off: they expand upon the rough and raw grooves of the 1960s and 1970s by taking on an eclectic, genre-bending approach, enriched by musical traditions stemming from both sides of the Atlantic. The resulting sound is enthralling and unique: a potent mixture of funk, soul, jazz, afro and latin rhythms, supported by an arsenal of dusty vintage keyboards and driven by powerful horn-drenched melodies.
The orchestra was founded in 2002, when a group of young, like-minded musicians started meeting up regularly at some of the hipper downtown clubs in Ottawa. Some had played in jazz combos, others in rhythm & blues bands, others still in African or Latin ensembles. They began making plans to form a new collective that would combine their various musical interests with their particular world view and the Souljazz Orchestra was soon born.
The multi-cultural Canadian ensemble has since had the chance to collaborate with such legendary figures as Jamaican reggae singer Horace Andy, Rwandan/Burundian guitarist Mighty Popo, as well as Fela Kuti alumni Dele Sosimi and Mabinuori Kayode Idowu. They have played hundreds of concerts across North America and Europe, sharing the stage with the likes of Femi Kuti, Etta James, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Érik Truffaz, Joshua Redman and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble.
The band broke through in 2006 with their storming afrobeat classic, "Mista President", a DJ staple since its release. Their accompanying record, Freedom No Go Die on Toronto's Do Right! imprint, was released in September of 2006, also to critical acclaim. Tracks from the album have been featured on a number of compilations and soundtracks, alongside such heavyweights as Amy Winehouse, Radiohead, Common, Quantic and K-os. The listeners of Gilles Peterson's BBC radio show voted "Mista President" as one of their top 10 of the year.
Manifesto, the group's follow-up album, also on Do Right!, was released in 2008 and hailed as a modern classic: "Top album of the year" claimed Kalcha of Vibrations Magazine, "Definitely a marquee album, " enthused CHARTattack Magazine, "Easily one of the funkiest groups in the contemporary Afro Funk underground," said Dusty Groove.
In February 2010, the Souljazz Orchestra is releasing its first all-acoustic afro-jazz album, Rising Sun, on the London-based Strut label. On this new set, Souljazz stays true to its roots in soul and afro rhythms, but explores fresh directions in jazz, creating deep, improvisational big-band music with a heavy-driving, dancefloor-conscious edge. Gilles Peterson has already called Rising Sun the group's best yet, as well as one of the year's top albums.