Afro Strut is ifanything even better, and looks set to be a more immediate success, for itachieves a most impressive musical coherence in its song-based structures,with the stars of the show once again the voice and keyboard-playingfingers of its principal artist.
Before going solo Joseph Fiddler had already amassed a host of musicalhighs though his keyboard playing, working in techno with Moodyman,funking out on stage with Prince and George Clinton – aformidable duo of beats references – and working closely with SlumVillage.
Waltz Of A Ghetto Fly took many of these references on board, and AfroStrut continues a natural progression while reining in the potential forimprovised excesses. The roots of the music lie in the keyboard playing,where Amp often achieves a coolness familiar to techno music, serving as asteady reference point under which there are funkier goings-on in the bassregion, with Amp’s naturally rich, slightly smoky baritone on top.
However this doesn’t mean the music is polished within an inch of itslife, and nor does it lack originality. The Dixieland infusion of If IDon’t refutes this superbly, with the clever double negative of the lyricsgiven a real swing with brushes of clarinet counterpoint and aneffortlessly funky groove.
Clearly proud of his home city, Fiddler makes a direct reference to theSeven Mile district where he grew up – not the infamous Eight Mile ofEminem, but on this hearing an area full of verve, captured withstuttering beats, funky yet indecisive as to whether they should break intofull blown four to the floor house. Meanwhile all sorts of vocal effectsare subtly let into the consciousness, moving left then right.
Two previous collaborators are on hand once more, with Only Childthe force behind the warm single Right Where You Are and Ridin’, whileRaphael Saadiq produces the imperious Faith. Fiddler’s duet withStephanie McKay has a soft spirituality on Heaven, while Afrofunkster Terry Green appears on the two brief variants of the titletrack that punctuate the centre of the record. Stevie Wonder,meanwhile, makes an implied appearance in Funky Monday.
At times I was reminded of Jamie Lidell‘s departure from technoto wide-eyed soul on his Multiply album, but this is more authentic -smooth, cool and irresistibly funky music that gets better and better themore you hear it. Amp Fiddler has every right to strut – he’s made a veryfine record, one of the best soulful long players you’ll hear thisyear.