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n 2001, Oli Lazarus founded Papa Records and simultaneously launched Reel People on to the soulful underground stage. Debut single Spiritual landed soon after. Its’ warm, engaging brand of soul-infused house clearly signaled Reel People’s potential. In 2002, talented musician and writer Mike Patto joined the project and, a year later, Reel People’s hugely acclaimed sophomore album Second Guess was released on Papa.

The record was refreshingly broad in its tastes – hip-hop and sultry rim-soul through to funked-up jazzy house – and saw collaborations with a wealth of underground talent including D-Influence singer- songwriter Dyanna Fearon (on the instantly classic Butterflies) and US soulstress Angela Johnson (on fan favourite Can’t Stop). Reel People subsequently went live, touring globally with highlight shows at the Tokyo Jazz Festival alongside Herbie Hancock, Japan’s infamous Blue Note club and, back in the UK, V Festival and T In The Park.

A 2004 showcase at the House Music Awardswas lapped up by Defected Records boss Simon Dunmore, who subsequently re-released Second Guess with a tasty bonus disc of live recordings and remixes, and three new songs, including The Rain graced by the vocal charms of Sharlene Hector. Come the re-release, early 2005, Reel People was thrust tastefully into the hearts and minds of even more underground listeners.

2008 welcomed brand new long-player Seven Ways To Wonder. Lead single Alibi, featuring singer Darien, cut a slice of delicious sun-drenched Latino-soul that neatly reflected the band’s artistic progression and greater compositional confidence. The new album also presented sweet Omar-voiced soca groove Outta Love, soul-disco bomb Amazing (featuring Tony Momrelle and Imaani,) and the classy Steely Dan-edged Ordinary Man. Praised widely, Seven Ways delivered funky, sashaying pep whilst taking a shrewd step back from the dancefloorin order to better convey the band’s fully-formed, free-ranging ideas.Mike Patto left late 2008 to push other projects but Oli’s exciting work relationships with Momrelle and studio don Toni Economides meant that new creative platforms were there to further develop Reel People’s sound.
Lazarus and Momrelle launched label Reel People Music in December 2009 with the single Star, a feel- good, jazz-funky lick fronted superbly by Momrelle. It Will Be, another slinky, soul-juiced cut from Seven Ways, followed – remixed and repackaged – a few months later.

Most recent work is 2011 album Reel People Present Golden Lady, a set of ‘spine-tingling’ original songs including the superlative cover of Stevie Wonder’s Golden Lady, beautifully re-sung by Tony Momrelle (and subsequently remixed as a single by legend ‘Little’ Louie Vega), plus material by emerging US soul stars Choklate and Darien (Darien’s Sure also released as a scorching remixed single).

The album confirms Reel People’s long-standing position at the soulful underground’s top table. And there’s no desire to step down. Reel People Music is now up to 25 releases and its careful, long-term nurturing of stylish acts such as The Layabouts will lead to many more – The Layabouts’ eagerly awaited spring 2012 album Future Retro has, in fact, been executively produced by Reel People.

As for the band itself, a new live show premiered in April 2012 at prestigious London jazz joint Ronnie Scott’s, officially kick-starting their next set of plans. Fans can expect more appearances –building on the band’s excellent 2011 South African tour– in the months ahead, a hot new single Startin’ Over (featuring Darien) and ‘Best Of’ album; all of it celebrating Reel People’s landmark 10th anniversary.

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