Michael Olatuja, “Lagos Pepper Soup”
By John Morrison · June 19, 2020 Merch for this release:
2 x Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)

Born in London, raised in Lagos, and based in New York, Michael Olatuja’s album Lagos Pepper Soup is a fresh and innovative take on the long cross-continental dialogue between Black American jazz and West African popular music. The album opens with “Even Now Prayer,” a brief but captivating mood-setter whose uptempo backbeat and sweeping synths suggest the soulful, utopian sound of broken beat London pioneers like 4hero and New Sector Movements. Things kick into high gear with the title track “Lagos Pepper Soup,” a driving Afrobeat cut that features a shining performance from Nigerian vocal legend Angelique Kidjo and an imaginative solo from guitarist Lionel Loueke. “The Hero’s Journey” is a grand and optimistic piece that shows off Olatuja’s compositional gifts. An evocative, string-heavy tune, it allows jazz violinist Regina Carter to shine while Olatuja’s playing in the background is subtle and restrained. “Ma Foya” is a gorgeous instrumental work that centers some fantastic harp playing from Brandee Younger.

Lagos Pepper Soup is an ambitious work of African diasporic jazz. Olatuja’s bass playing throughout the album is vibrant and endlessly creative. Coupled with his compositional skill and performances from an impressive list of guest vocalists and instrumentalists, Lagos Pepper Soup is a bold and colorful release that comfortably holds space for a rich musical exchange between American jazz and the music of the African continent.

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