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Michael Olatuja - Speak

Contributors: Written by Cathy Gruenfelder
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  • Issue: 2009 August
  • Artist(s):
  • Genre: Jazz - R&B Soul
  • Personnel:
    Michael Olatuja, electric and acoustic bass, Fender Rhodes; Lynden Davis Hall, vocals (1,3); Andrew Roachford, vocals (3); Terri Walker, vocals (4); TY, spoken word (8); Onaje Jefferson, vocals (5); Eska Mtungwazi, vocals; Alicia Olatuja, vocals (5,7,9); Fami Temowo, guitar; Troy Miller, drums (3,6,7,9,10); Jerry Brown, drums (2,4,5,8); Jason Rebello, piano, Fender Rhodes, Moog (1,6,9,10); Jean Toussant, soprano sax (10); Isaach Aryee, Fender Rhodes, organ (2-4); Luke Smith, keyboards (5); Jason Michael Webb, keyboard (7); Thomas Dyani Akuru, percussion (1); Anyan Leke, talking drum, (1); Volker Strater, percussion (6); Richard Temowo, backing vocals (1-4,6,8); Anna Omakinwa, backing vocals (1-4,6,8); Sewuese Abwa, backing vocals (2,4,8); Brendon Guyatt, backing vocals (2,4,8); Heidi vogel, backing vocals (2,4,8); Rasiyah, backing vocals (2,4,8); Sky, backing vocals (4)
  • Tracks:
    Ma Foya; Altar Call; Hold On;Little Sister; Le Jardin; Yi Yipada; Unconditional;Speak; Walk With Me; Mama Ola

Michael Olatuja
SPEAK—ObliqSound BD005. Web:


By Cathy Gruenfelder
Recorded between 2003 and 2004, British/Nigerian bassist Michael Olatuja is finally releasing his debut album, Speak. When you hear this album, you’ll immediately think, “Why the wait?!” Olatuja’s groove is miles and miles deep. He could play two notes and it could hit you deeper than some others players can do over the course of a whole album. I guess a great groove is something you either have or don’t, and if groove were water, you’d have to go to his concerts with scuba gear. It is no secret why this 28 year old has been hired by artists like Terence Blanchard, Patti Austin, Lisa Stansfield, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, and Gretchen Parlato.

Of the ten tracks, all are originals except for “Walk with Me” which is a traditional gospel. When you press play, you will here some very intense African music, but by the time you get to the end, you’ll have heard gospel, R&B, soul, funk and straight ahead jazz. For the most part, Olatuja plays electric bass, but he can also play a stand up when the situation calls for it.

Olatuja, who also produced the album, invited a huge array of guest singers and musicians to play on the album, and it makes sense when one considers the stylistic breadth of the album. Some of the singers include Eska Mtungwazi, Andrew Roachford, Terri Walker, Onaje Jefferson, his wife Alicia Olatuja and neo-soul artist Lynden David Hall. Some of the musicians include guitar wiz Femi Temowo, Jean Toussaint, Jason Rebello and many more.

Olatuja is not only a great composer, but also an inspired lyricist. His songs speak of love and hope, while often reflecting his roots in the church. As diverse as the album gets, his bass sound and distinct sense of time are always consistent, and are always the propelling force of the music. His roots in African music, gospel, R&B, and Jazz have combined beautifully on this debut album, Speak.

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