Jazz Planet

Putumayo Presents… Jazz Around the World
Putumayo Presents: Jazz Around the World (Putumayo PUT 296-2, 2009)

I can’t define jazz any more than I can define world music, so the many points at which they cross paths are likewise not going to prompt anyone to look to me for explanations. It’s more a matter of knowing it when I hear it, and I certainly like what I hear on this collection, which clearly aims to be a sampling of jazz rather than some sort of world/jazz fusion although at times it comes across as one. Okay, I’m already well on my way to proving how bad I am at definitions, so better I should just talk about the music.

Africa gets a strong show of it, with Kora jazz Trio’s striking instrumental rendition of “Chan Chan” putting new life into that signature Cuban tune, Blick Bassy coming across as warmly as fellow Cameroonian Richard Bona, Keletigui Diabate balafoning his way through a Gershwin standard with help from Habib Koité and Hugh Masekela running down the sort of piece that’s made him a giant in both jazz and African music circles.

Also on hand are up-and-comers Chantal Chamberland and Niuver who color their easygoing acoustic jazz with French and Spanish inflections respectively, Sherele’s Latin/swing/klezmer blend from Mexico, a brooding bit of minimalism with jazz trumpet by France’s Kad Achouri, Heather Rigdon ably representing the good ol’ USA and a song by New Zealander Kataraina Pipi that would be more than passingly pleasant if it wasn’t so short.

But the best of the lot belongs to veteran jazz drummer Billy Cobham, who teams with Cuban band Asere for “Destinos,” a comparatively lengthy jam that straddles traditional and progressive and nails both. Jazz Around the World is only a taste of what could rightly fall under such a title (according to my non-definitive viewpoint), though it’s a consistently pleasant and varied jazz journey that fits Putumayo’s customary feel-good ethos.

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