Part of an ongoing series of live recordings from the Greenwich Village based club Smalls, with an intimate atmosphere that lends itself to small-group jazz combos, the pianist from trio The Bad Plus, Ethan Iverson, performs a set of more traditional material. He is ably assisted here by Albert ‘Tootie’ Heath on drums and Ben Street on bass. With no prior rehearsal the feel is exploratory and even the best known of numbers become something quite obscure. A case in point is ‘All the things you are’ which begins as a quasi-classical solo piece before the rhythm section enters. Throughout the theme is barely stated. In contrast Bud Powell’s ‘Dance of the infidels’ receives a more straightforward delivery. Ballads such as ‘Out of nowhere’ reveal Iverson to be a clever pianist who has clearly reflected on how to approach a more mainstream repertoire. Nonetheless the question does need to be asked of whether Iverson has a highly distinctive individual style as such. His ability to play different styles is highlighted on the live set with Mal Waldron deliberately quoted on ‘Melonae’ which is a tribute both to drummer Heath who has played with the late Waldron on numerous occasions and to friend and fellow drummer Ronald Tucker who featured on the original session.
French keyboardist Cedric Hanriot seems to have been heavily influenced by both Herbie Hancock from his Headhunters period and fellow compatriot Michel Petrucciani and this is reflected in the musical balance which includes acoustic trio, fender Rhodes and electric bass formats, and occasional accompaniment from cellos and violins. The repertoire is roughly evenly divided between self-penned compositions and occasional takes on classic French chanson with John Patitucci alternating between acoustic and electric bass and Terri Lynne Carrington propelling the drums. Hancock is most obviously evoked on the staccato rhythm of ‘Louisiana’ with John Patitucci excelling on electric bass and Hanriot doubling up on multiple keyboards. In parts this almost sounds like Medeski, Martin and Wood territory. Hanriot shifts keyboard duties again on the Latin jazz of ‘Mambo’. Of the three acoustic trio outings, ‘Crunkie’ sounds not dissimilar to ‘Think of one’ and is Monk-esque in structure. Among the French songs selected, Claude Nougaro’s ‘Le jazz et la java’ is the pick of the quartet with a nice change in emphasis that recalls Brad Mehldau. The prog rock beats of ‘Marianne était jolie’ sound out-of-place with the rest here. A promising debut, then, and Cedric Hanriot will with future recordings find his own voice.
The 1980s was a crucial decade for world roots music in that it was during this era that the very term ‘world music’ was first coined by the music industry and at the very time when commercially music from the more obscure parts of the world was just beginning to be marketed in Western Europe and North America. It was an intensely exciting time to discover new sounds and what this new anthology succeeds in doing is to capture the essence of those sounds from that emerging interest. For many the very first ‘ethnic’ sound they heard outside mainstream rock was that of the Bulgarian state female choir and this as early as the mid-1970s They were better known as Le mystère des voix bulgares and from their very first international album is selected ‘Kalimanko u denkou’ which showcases the wonderful vocal talents of the choir. In general the anthology is neatly divided up into different musical regions and in club land Brazil occupied an important part. Tania Maria was a singer who actually appealed primarily to the jazz-funk crowd and one can hear why on the bubbly funk-bass driven ‘Come with me’ which was an underground hit in 1983. Thereafter DJs began searching for other examples of Brazilian music and two of the most loved are contained here. A reworking of Bill Withers’ ‘Ain’t no sunshine’ is transformed into a samba beat by Sivuca while Gilberto Gil scored a European hit with the irresistible ‘Todo menina baiana’. West African music really made deep inroads into the UK world music scene as it was developing and Salif Keita’s album ‘Soro’ was quite simply a seminal moment. From that album ‘Sina’ is but one example of the Malian singer’s craft. More acoustic forms of West African music were to be found in the dream pairing of Baaba Maal and Mansour Seck and the title track of their wonderful ‘Lam toro’ is chosen here. Youssou N’Dour was just beginning to make a name for himself and ‘Immigrés’ went a long way to cementing his reputation. Other styles were fully matured such as Ghanaian highlife and Eric Ageyman became a standard-bearer of the genre with his club hit ‘I don’t care’. In fact dance oriented grooves attracted a whole new audience to African music with the sterling efforts of DJs Andy Kershaw and John Peel crucial to the success in the UK of the Bhundu Boys from Zimbabwe. Here they offer the up-tempo ‘Hupeny hwangu’. In neighbouring South Africa mbaqanga rhythms were starting to export and two of the main exponents were Mahlathini with his growling voice and the Mahotella Queens. The two combine to offer up ‘Thokozile’.
Perhaps some of the most interesting tracks are to be found in the less easily to define category when various national popular music genres were starting to take off. Take for example North African rai from Khaled and Fadela, then young chebab, with cheap instrumentation, which has continued to be popular among the large Maghrebian communities in France and even regularly entered the French pop charts, or ghaal music from Najma Akhtar, or even the late great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. All the aforementioned found their way into the record collections of a new generation who found the discoveries totally invigorating at a time when the pop charts were becoming increasingly uniform and muzak driven.
The Spanish-speaking Latin music world is a little light on the ground here, but there is no denying that Columbian singer Joe Arroyo with his infectious mix of cumbia and salsa grooves captivated the UK audience during the late 1980s and into the early 1990s.
One of his many hits was ‘Yamelemau’ included herein. More traditional cumbia scored a surprise chart hit thanks to a coffee advert which transported Rudolfo y su Tipica RA7 from obscurity to stardom with the one-off success of ‘La colegiala. The tune is instantly recognisable. Bizarrely there is just one reggae inclusion from Tenor Saw, a worthy artist who died far too early in his mid-twenties. Reggae is unquestionably an integral part of the world music scene, though it does operate largely independently and precedes any kind of ‘world’ music awareness by at least a couple of decades and is well served on CD. A few surprising omissions. Franco, Fela Kuti, Eddie Palmieri and Ali Farka Toure would be obvious inclusions alongside possibly Tito Puente and Celia Cruz or Ruben Blades, but all these artists have been chronicled in-depth elsewhere and even two very generously timed CDs are simply not enough to cover all the musical territory. Otherwise an exemplary compilation with well illustrated sleeve notes and informative details on individual songs.
Both tenorist Stan Getz and vibist Cal Tjader had just turned thirty when this album from 1958 was made and they were already fully matured musicians who would enjoy unprecedented success as solo artists during the 1960s. This has all the lightness of touch and sunny disposition one might expect from a classic West coast recording of the era and moreover featuring an outstanding line-up of artists including a young Billy Higgins on drums, Vince Guaraldi on piano and a then unknown Scott La Faro on bass (pre-Bill Evans trio by just a year or so). By fat the best well-known number is the marathon eleven minute plus ‘Ginza samba’ which is a precursor of sorts to the extended explorations of Brazilian music that Getz in particular would undertake during the following decade. Of particular note here is the fine guitar work of Eddie Duran and one wonders whether this pairing actually inspired either Getz, or more likely his producers to unite Getz and Charlie Byrd for the first of the US-based bossa nova albums. Almost as popular is the Tjader composition, the waltz ‘Liz-Anne’, which has become something of a standard. Getz and Tjader combine wonderfully on the mid-tempo blues ‘Crow’s nest’ while there is fine ensemble playing on the ballads ‘For all we know’ and ‘My buddy’. Getz clearly enjoyed the format of rhythm section plus vibes and returned to a slightly pared down version in the mid-1960s when touring with Gary Burton and recording a well received live album in Paris with him. Tjader for his part focused on a plethora of Latin rhythms during the 1960s and struck up a fruitful partnership with pianist Eddie Palmieri. This album marks a watershed in both leaders careers.
Capitalising on the success of her previous well received album, Leva-me aos fados’, Portuguese fado singer Ana Moura seems destined for international stardom and this live recording, which is actually two separate live recordings from the Coliseu venues in Lisbon and Porto, merely confirms all the initial hype. A classic selection of heart rendering songs (and no repetition whatsoever from the aforementioned studio album) is best exemplified by ‘Os meus olhos sao dois cirius’ (’My eyes are two candles’) and the extended a capella intro to one of Amalia Rodrigues’ compositions ‘La lava no sao lavava’. Only minimal instrumentation is needed here with a singer whose purity of voice speaks volumes. Ana Moura is close behind Mariza in terms of recognition and it is only a matter of time before she gains a similar following outside her native country in Europe and North America. Place this latest album alongside Mariza’s ‘Fado tradicional’ for a beginner’s guide to authentic fado music.
Released to tie in with the tenth anniversary of the Catalan group and rumoured to be their last recording together while individual members pursue solo careers, this compilation enables the listener to go back in time to the emergence of rumba flamenco, which Ojos de Brujo have been a the forefront of pioneering, and which has been an integral part of the music scene in Barcelona. Among the favourites, ‘Sultanas de merkaillo’ with its instantly catchy hooks stands out and the fusion of flamenco guitar and hip-hop beats works extremely well. Similarly a flamenco take on Bob Marley’s ‘get up, stand up’ with Spanish lyrics included and lovely harmonies is a winner of a song and Bob and Pete Tosh would surely have appreciated this tribute. Two new songs include the title track produced by Nitin Sawhney with subtle beats and hip-hop influences. A one-off gig at the Barbican in mid-April may possibly be the last time in a while that UK audiences have the opportunity to see Ojos de Brujo live, which would be a great pity since their infectious enthusiasm is simply made for a live context.
The nations of the Mediterranean have in recent years produced a host of singers who are either partly, or wholly influenced by reggae music. These include Sargent Garcia in Spain, Pierpoljak in France and the Franco-Basque-Spaniard now based in Barcelona, Manu Chao. Perhaps the most able candidate of all in a strictly roots reggae vein is a relative newcomer on the scene, Alborosie. Italian singer Alborosie has long been settled in Jamaica and amazingly sounds as though he has learnt his English from the teachings of Rasta’s, so authentic a voice does he now possess. This new album is arguably his most convincing yet and one that deserves to catapult the singer to international status. An obvious contender for a single is ‘International drama’ with its film score piano intro. Alborosie has clearly listened to a good deal of the early Wailers’ albums for Island and this is most evident on the infectious ‘Soul train’ and on ‘Who you think you are’. More roots reggae vibes are in evidence on the up-tempo rockers tune ‘I wanna go home’ while conscious roots lyrics abound on ‘Jesus he’s coming’. There are even shades of Manu Chao on ‘La revoulccion’ which is sung in Spanish. Not all is retro, however, with a reggaeton feel on ‘Camilla’ with dub echoes and sampling. A ragga-style vocal delivery is equally present on Rolling like a rock’ which has a riddim similar to Black Uhuru’s ‘General penitentiary’. Clearly aiming to appeal to a wider audience, Alborosie duets with a (unnamed) female singer on the lovers groove of ‘You make me feel good’ and on ‘Rude bwoy love’. A varied set, then, and one that deserves to go beyond the confines of reggae fans.
In previous projects guitarist Lê has devoted an entire album to the music of Jimi Hendrix. This latest set takes a wider panoramic vision as its starting point and focuses instead on a homage of sorts to the music of the 1970s (though the Beatles, Cream and Janis Joplin are more 1960s). If one is expecting a straightforward album of standards, think again. These have been carefully thought out and mark a departure from the originals. The album title is of course a subtle reference to Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption song’ which here is transformed into an eerie sounding piece with electric guitar and subtle use of strings. Even more unusual is ‘Eleanor rigby’ which has a Far Eastern feel on zither and builds into a mid-tempo number. Stevie Wonder’s ‘Part-time paradise’ received a wonderful Latin jazz version from Ray Barretto, but here it is a very different creature. The tempo is taken all the way down to just marimba and guitar accompaniment and duet vocals. It is indeed a creative and lovely sounding departure from the original. Various guest vocalists including David Linx and Linley Marthe add to the already eclectic mix. This is no better illustrated than on the North African flavoured ‘Come together’ which features Dhaffer Youssef. Nguyên Lê is definitely a musician with a highly original sound and one that emerges clearly irrespective of the repertoire selected.
This is the latest collaboration between the Swedish jazz big band and a well-known guest musician. Previously the likes of Avishai Cohen, Bob Mintzer, Maria Schneider and Kenny Wheeler have all participated. The origins of the big band go back as far as the 1950s when it performed as a military band and one that in turn dates back to the early nineteenth century. For this new recording the overriding theme is a tribute to one of America’s greatest composers, Cole Porter, but updated and given the inimitable big band treatment. A heavy modal bass intro to ‘I get a kick out of you’ with light Latin percussion is an album highlight as is the funk-infused ‘What is this thing called love’. Some interpretations verge on the pop side, as with ‘I love Paris’. Of the most interesting pieces, several are the slower numbers such as ‘I’ve got you under my skin’ which receives a sensitive rendition with an extremely catchy keyboard riff and ‘Every time we say goodbye’ which is both mournful and plaintive in character. Trombonist Nils Landgren gets plenty of opportunity to solo throughout and on some songs contributes his own vocals which lie somewhere between a Chet Baker sound-alike and the straighter vocal approach of Kurt Elling.
This varied set from Cameroonian singer-songwriter, arranger, producer and recorder Munto Valdo reveals an eclectic approach to one-man music making that takes on board Brazilian, reggae, blues and myriad other influences. He has collaborated among others with Damon Albarn’s African Express and played in a live context with a host of African musicians including Ali Farka Toure. The totality of these experiences comes together in a cohesive whole here. In fact the use of harmonica on the instantly catchy ‘No mercy’ recalls Ismael Lo while elsewhere there are hints of Gilberto Gil in both the voice and the manner of playing the guitar. Blues are evoked on ‘Timba’ and there are lovely laid-back guitar and vocals on ‘Miengu’. Sound effects approximating a forest emerge on the pared down ‘Djongo’ complete with choir vocals all sung by Valdo himself. An uptempo number ‘Musseing’ impresses with its funk-infused bass line. Throughout the time signatures are quite unusual in structure and there is enough variety to keep one guessing as to what is happening next. Munto Valdo will be performing live in the UK from mid-May through June as opening act to the Ladysmith Black Mambazo tour. Slightly more to the rootsy side of world music than his compatriot Richard Bono, a promising future awaits the richly talented Munto Valdo.