Sultans of String
Yalla Yalla! (McKhool/Laliberte, 2011)
Every once in a while I get one of those CDs where the musicianship just screams “I love what I do and I’m going to do it until I drop.” Nothing could be truer than the Sultans of String’s Yalla Yalla. Consummate musicianship leaks from every track of Yalla Yalla! and the brightness of the recording is almost blinding. Available on the McKhool/Laliberte label and with support from the Ontario Arts Council, Yalla Yalla brims over with sheer delight.
Six string violinist and producer Chris McKhool, guitarist Kevin Laliberte, guitarist Eddie Paton, bassist Drew Birston and percussionist Rosendo Chendy Leon make up the Sultans of String. With their 2007 recording Luna to their credit, the Sultans of String are currently racking up rave reviews and award nominations by the fist full, like the 2011 International Acoustic Music Awards, the 2011 International Acoustic Music Award and the 2011 Independent Music Award World Beat Album while they tackle a hectic North American touring schedule.
Liner note info suggests filing the Sultans of String in atomic world-jazz-flamenco genres, but Yalla Yalla! leaps across musical borders quicker than sneaky cat. Dipping fingers into Middle Eastern strings and rhythms, Gypsy Django Reinhardt jazz, Spanish flamenco, Central and South American rhythms and wide, open space folk, the Sultans of String create a collage of sound that frankly defies one set label. Interestingly enough the whole of the CD does seam to flow easily from the Lebanese inspired “Gardens of Lebanon” to the Cuban rhythmically worked “Gymnorumba,” based on Eric Satie’s “Gymnopedies.”
Gems include the raucously energy of opening track “Yalla Yalla!,” the bold, jazzy “Stomping at the Rex” and the sultry lines of “Al Vuelo.” Working with guest musicians like Bassam Bishara, the Cuban Trumpet Ensemble and Maryem Tollar, Yalla Yalla is filled with fresh and extraordinary artists that add to the spicy mix of genres. Guest musician George Gao on the two-stringed Chinese violin or erhu lends is expertise to the exotic “Tikal,” while the soulful “Travesia” lays down a sweetly sad veil with strains of influence from Cuba, Mexico and Peru. Closing track “Le Bisou” is an artfully worked, folksy track inspired by a ride on the Trans Canada Highway.
Yalla Yalla! possesses a kaleidoscope of musical colors, each one more lovely than the last.
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