Various ‘Far Out Strictly Samba’ (Far Out) 4/5

With the Rio carnival imminent, Far Out have wisely decided to cheer us up with some rootsy samba, several songs of which have never previously been released in this country and make this essential listening at an affordable price to boot. The fact that it has been compiled by Brazilian specialist DJ Cliffy gives this additional crediblity and there are some terrific discoveries to be heard here. Teresa Cristina is not a name familiar to most, but along with her Grupo Semente has devoted her attentions to showcasing the music of samba legend, Paulinho da Viola. The result is the beautiful ‘Foi un rio que passou en minha vida’, an album highlight. Likewise Roge is not an obvious choice, but one who clearly has a great future ahead of him as illustrated on the fabulous ‘Swingue do samba’. More familiar Brazilliance is to be found on ‘Carolina’ by Seu Jorge, by far the best known of modern samba artists. Of great interest is the solo project of Nereu with group Swing, founder of Trio Mocoto, who of course backed Jorge Ben during his classic period in the 1970s and in ‘Maria Jose’ provides an example of what became known as samba rock and later samba funk. Elza Soares typified a more commerical form of samba from the mid-1960s onwards and here is accompanied by singer-songwriter Joyce on guitar. It would be impossible to have a samba compilation without some fiery larger ensemble percussion and this compilation does not disappoint with Grupo Batuque and Dom Um and Jair de Castro on various instrumentation. In a more laid back and melodic vein is the song form of samba known as samba-cancao and somewhat surprisingly it is Wilson das Neves in his more unlikely role as vocalist with the Ipanemas who illustrates the sub-genre. Extensive sleeve notes chronicle both the origins of samba and shed light on the artists contained within.

Tim Stenhouse

Eamon Doorley, Muireann Nic Amlaoibh, Julie Fowlis and Ross Martin ‘Dual’ (Machair) 4/5

This project was initiated by vocalists Julie Fowlis and Muireann Nic Amlaoibh and inspired by them both growing up in Gaelic-speaking communities, the former in North Uist and the latter in county Kerry, Ireland. In the case of Nic Amhlaoibh this is doubled by working for the Irish-language television channel TG4 that prides itself on championing traditional Irish music on the island of Ireland and further afield in its diaspora communities.

The music contained within celebrates and to an extent chronicles the very real historical musical links that exist between Ireland and the highlands of Scotland. As such it provides a fascinating insight into the connections that distinguished folk musicians such as Andy Irvine and Bert Jansch have frequently alluded to in their music. This is no better illustrated than on ‘Uist-Kerry Set: Bu chaomh leam bhith fuireach’ which includes a tune of Scottish music that was transported to West Kerry when Gaelic-speaking Scottish guards were stationed there. Bi-lingual lyrics enable one to better understand the storytelling quality of the Irish/Scots Gaelic language and above all it is the sheer lyricism of the musical exploration that shines through on this fine recording.

Tim Stenhouse

Nicola Conte ‘Rituals’ (Schema/Emarcy) 4/5

Jazz dance DJ Nicola Conte is best known for his compilations of new artists and collection of rare vinyl. However, in recent years he has become increasingly interested in producing and performing on acoustic jazz. On this new album he goes beyond the normal dance oriented music to produce a supremely well rounded release that incorporates vocal, big band, modal flavours and left-field compositions. Latin polyrhythms and big band horns abound on ‘The Nubian Queens’, one of the albums’ many highlights, with the excellent vocals of Jose James and on the big band vocal piece ‘I see all shades of you’, featuring the vocals of Alice Ricciardi. The instrumental ‘Macedonia’ allows the musicians to really stretch out with pianist Pietro Lussu impressing with some McCoy Tyneresque licks and horns reminiscent of the Jazz Messengers. Long-time fans will love the dancefloor beat of ‘Black is the graceful veil’ and this is a possible song to be lifted for 12” release. In a similar vein is a big band version of ‘Caravan’ while the intimate bossa ‘Paper Clouds’ has an easy lounge feel to it. Further variety comes in the form of ‘Red sun’, which is laid back with lovely flute and the vocals of Kim Sanders, and ‘Karma Flower’ with a Pharoah Sanders inspired Eastern intro that floats along like the vocals. The title track has a modal feel that recalls Miles’ late-1950s recordings with the subtle use of harp. A stellar cast includes alto saxophonist Greg Osby, an array of other American, Finnish and Italian musicians and Conte himself on guitar, clearly influenced by the Blue Note grooves of Grant Green. By far the most complete album recorded by Conte thus far.

Tim Stenhouse

The Tomorrow Band ‘2 To Get Set’ (Rehab)

Follow up to ‘3 to get ready’ from Chris Bowden, Neil Bullock and Ben Markland which opens with a fine take on Miles Davis’s ‘Freddie The Freeloader’. 
Further jazz staples include Antonio Carlos Jobim’s ‘Chega de Saudade’ and Wayne Shorter’s ‘Isotope’ as well as a bonus DVD track of Billy Cobham’s ‘Red Baron’. Great straight ahead playing and whilst it’s not on the wild side the quality glows through and embraces you.

Graham Radley

John Mccosker ‘Under One Sky’ (Navigator)

This is a vocal and instrumental suite by John McCusker, performed by a brilliant line up of Britain’s finest musicians.Originally commissioned by the PRS Foundation, the Scottish Arts Council and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Under One Sky explores the many different traditions, genres and influences at work across the UK folk scene and incorporates them into 7 pieces of music. McCusker’s hand-picked ensemble includes Graham Coxon , Roddy Woomble, Julie Fowlis, John Tams and Jim Causley also feature among the singers while the instrumentalists include Iain MacDonald, Andy Cutting Ian Carr and Emma Reid. Evocative music which shines especially on ‘S Tusa Thilleas’ sung by Julie Fowlis and ‘Long Time Past/Lavender Hill’ with lead from Roddy Womble. Excellent.

Graham Radley

Novalima ‘Coba Coba’ (Cumbancha)

Coba Coba is an Afro-Peruvian expression akin to ‘Go for it!’ and Novalima do that in all the best ways. The band have at their roots a bedrock of Afro-Peruvian rhythms and melodies which they freely envelop with a mix that incorporates Latin, dub and electronica. Special guests include New Zealand nu-jazz keyboardist Mark de Clive-Lowe, Cuban hip-hop group Obsesión while producer Toni Economides (Nitin Sawhney and Bugz In The Attic) brings it all together with just the right feel of soulful roots meets edgy grooves. Have a listen to tracks like ‘Coba Guarango’ and be prepared to be moved. Top stuff.

Graham Radley

Various ‘African Reggae’ (Putumayo)

Tracks from Cote d’Ivoire, Cape Verde, South Africa, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Guinea-Bissau. Ba Cissoko with Tiken Jah Fakoly give us the sweet melodic side of reggae with ‘On Veut Se Marier’ while Majek Fashek’s ‘Man Of Sorrow’ has a real feel of Marley. Very good.

Graham Radley

Ry-Co Jazz ‘Bon Voyage!!’ (Retro)

Excellent compilation of material covering 1965 to 1977. The band had a core line up of the amazing Jerry Malekani on guitar, Freddie Nkounkou and Mbilia Casino on vocals plus in the earlier days Panda Gracia on bass and then, once they moved onto the French Caribbean, Jean Serge Essous on sax. The music was groundbreaking as they mixed many styles including rumba and soukous and then calypso and reggae, this of course was glorious music for the dance floor and this collection comes highly recommended.

Graham Radley

Bonga ‘Bairro’ (Lusa Africa)

Superb release from Bonga with a nice balance of moods and rhythms which range from where his native Angolan semba shows influences of morna from the Cape Verde to changing gear so that soukous guides us to the dance floor. Now in his 60’s but this is a real return to earlier form. Recommended.

Graham Radley

Binario ‘Binario’ (Far Out)

From Ipanema Beach, with a sound that rocks and funks its way through core Brazilian rhythms, with a touch of psychedelic thrown in too but really there’s so much going on here it’s hard to define (in a good way). They are a seven piece band that distance themselves well away from all stereotypical notions of Brazilian music and have made a CD that’s distinctly their own sound, I’ll just leave you to ponder what that sound actually is because there’s such a mixture from track to track that you often wonder if it’s a different CD. Well worth checking out.

Graham Radley

travelling the spaceways since 1993