Goldenhair by Brian Byrne and James Joyce (Node Records, 2016)
Goldenhair is an album composed by acclaimed Irish musician Brian Byrne. He wrote and arranged the music with lyrics based on the writings of James Joyce.
Despite the Irish origin, don’t expect an Irish folk music album. Goldenhair focuses primarily on jazz. The album includes songs and spoken word segments and has an impressive list of guests, Judith Hill, Glenn Close, Julian Lennon, Kurt Elling, Sara Gazarek, Curtis Stigers, Kate McGarry, Kristina Train, Declan O’ Rourke, Cara Dillon, Jack Lukeman and the RTE Concert Orchestra.
Although most of the album is grounded on jazz, it also features evocative bagpipe, neosoul, gospel, blues and bluegrass. Goldenhair brings together the best of music and literature.
Steel Pan Fusion – Melting Pot (Steel Pan Fusion, 2017)
Steel Pan Fusion is an excellent London band led by Trinidadian steel pan maestro and composer Wade Austin. He takes the versatile steelpan to the exciting world of jazz fusion with a group of skilled colleagues that add electronic keyboards, creative drumming, funk bass, soca, world music elements and other tasty ingredients.
The lineup includes Wade Austin and David Vine on steel pan, Sam Blue Agard on drums, Liam Joseph on bass, Phillip Harper on percussion, Andre Louis and Joe McGrail on keyboards, and Adriano Rosetti-Bonell on saxophone and flute.
Two additional pannists appear as guests: Daiel Louis and Delphina James.
Melting Pot delivers superb fusion highlighting the steel pan.
This 2-disc set contains a music CD of field recordings made in India in the late 1960s by the late Deben Bhattacharya, featuring various artists playing ragas. The second disc is a DVD with a very interesting 30-minute film titled Ragas, also directed by Deben Bhattacharya.
In the 1960s many western musicians were “Discovering” Indian music. The ‘Raga’ documentary was filmed in 1969, in the early days of documentary filmmaking, and presented by Yehudi Menuhin.
The album booklet contains liner notes by Simon Broughton, biographical information about Deben Bhattacharya, the documentary and ragas and artists feature don the audio disc.
Overall, a fascinating introduction to raga from an Indian perspective.
Tio Chorinho is a great instrumental ensemble from Toronto that specializes in choro music, a Brazilian genre from the Rio de Janeiro region. It’s lively, uplifting music that brings together Portuguese guitar traditions and African beats.
The group’s sound revolves around the sounds and interplay of the cavaquinho, guitar and mandolin. On Chora Brazil there is also notable flute work by guest musician Alheli Pimienta. The music selection includes classics by Jacob do Bandolim, Waldir Azevedo and Pixinguinha.
The lineup on Chora Brazil includes Eric Stein on mandolin; Avital Zemer on 7-string guitar; Maninho Costa on percussion; Carlos Cardozo on cavaquinho; and Andre Valerio on guitar and cavaquinho. Guests: Alheli Pimienta on flute; Riquinho Fernandes on [percussion; Milos Popovic on accordion and Flavia Nascimento on vocals.
Munich singer Andrea Pancur has developed a fascinating new genre called Alpen Klezmer, an unconventional mix of Bavarian and Yiddish traditions. You’ll hear classic Bavarian brass, accordion and dances along with Klezmer melodies and instrumentation, tango, Middle Eastern rhythms and even flamenco palmas (handclap percussion).
Andrea Pancur researched in archives for ancient melodies and added her own lyrics. The CD booklet includes German-language lyrics and English-language translations.
The lineup includes Andrea Pancur on vocals along with a long list of talented musicians: Christian Dawid on clarinet and saxophone; Ilya Schneyveys on accordion, guitar, vocals ; Alex Hass on bass and vocals; Alan Bern on accordion and piano; Lorin Sklamberg on vocals; Johann Bengen on percussion and vocals; Michel Watzinger on dulcimer; Evi Heigl on violin; Stofferl Werl on trumpet; Hansjorg Gehring on trombone; Anja Gunther on clarinet; Szilvia Csaranko on grand piano; Hermann Haertel jun on violin; and Guy Schalom on drums, payk, washboard and palmas.
Front Country is an excellent San Francisco Americana band inspired by bluegrass, old time, blues, and classic country music. The band’s sounds is characterized by the passionate voice of Melody Walker, strong vocal harmonies, fiddle, mandolin, banjo and guitars. Although the band is rooted in tradition, they incorporate unexpected progressive elements, especially with the fiddle that make their music unique and more attractive.
The lineup includes Adam Roszkiewicz on mandolin; Jacob Groopman on guitar, vocals; Melody Walker on vocals, guitar; Jordan Klein on banjo, vocals; Leif Karlstrom on violin; Zach Sharpe on bass.
Baeshi Bang is a French jazz quintet fascinated by Korean 1960s star Baeshi Ho. Baeshi Bang has transformed Baeshi Ho’s songs and turned them into contemporary jazz instrumentals with a Korean flavor, bits of retro elements and Korean spoken word segments.
Without haven’t listened to the K-Pop originals it’s hard to envision how the songs have changed. Nonetheless, the quintet has created a fascinating album where jazz meets cherished pop from the 1960s.
The lineup includes Etienne de la Sayette on tenor saxophone, flute, clavioline, kayageum; Victor Michaud on French horn, organ; Loic Récahard and Giani Caseroto on guitar; François Chesnel on piano; and Stefano Lucchini on drums.
The Seal of Solomon is an album that combines classic rock with Middle Eastern music. The album features a great version of a traditional Yemenite song performed by Shlomit Levi. The album’s sound is anchored by the beautiful vocals of Israeli singer Shlomit Levi and Israeli-American guitarist RebbeSoul.
West Philly Orchestra (WPO) – Tour De Filli (Fly Bottle Records, 2016)
On Tour De Filli, the West Philly Orchestra Album plays fun, infectious Balkan dance music. The ensemble’s foundation is Eastern European brass band music, Gypsy melodies, American jazz improvisation and vocals by Bulgarian artist Petia Zamfirova who sings in English, Romani and Bulgarian.