Category Archives: CD Reviews

Kevin Bowers’ Nova

 Kevin Bowers - Nova

Kevin Bowers – Nova

Kevin Bowers – Nova (Machinery Music, 2016)

After a trip to Spain, American drummer Kevin Bowers composed his new album Nova. Even though he was heavily deeply inspired by the music, people, art, and food of Spain, he’s always had a passion for Brazilian percussion so Nova showcases his Brazilian rhythmic influences.

Nova features loungy bossa nova, Latin jazz and pop songs with English vocals (although he also includes a French-language version of one of the songs) along with highly percussive tracks where he develops the sound of a large batucada ensemble. On the instrumental “Imagination Voodoo” he ventures a little deeper into world music with a mixture of Arabic, Spanish and Latin American influences delivered in a spaghetti westerns style.

On Nova Bowers uses a wide range of Brazilian musical instruments, including surdo, repinique, tamborim, chocalhos (Brazilian shakers), as well as other percussion instruments from the Cuban tradition like timbales, bongos, and congas.

The musicians on Nova include Kevin Bowers on drums, percussion, and acoustic guitar; Michael Aguirre on vocals; Kevin Bachmann on electric bass; Zebadiah Briskovich on upright and electric bass; Paige Brubeck on vocals; Erminie Cannon on vocals; Aaron Chandler on trombone; Andy Coco on vocals; Dave Grelle on piano, electric piano, keyboards, vocals; Jimmy Griffin on vocals, electric and acoustic guitar, 12-string electric guitar; Jordan Heimburger on nylon-string guitar, electric and acoustic guitar; Nathan Hershey on vocals; Adam Hucke on trumpet, piccolo trumpet, French Horn; Ben Reece, flute, tenor sax, clarinet, baritone sax, recorder; and Andy Shadburne on vocals.

Nova is an easy to listen to collection of lounge and romantic songs with a Brazilian and Latin flavor.

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Middle Eastern and Pop Intersections

Brothers of the Baladi - Gravity of Love
Brothers of the Baladi – Gravity of Love

Brothers of the Baladi – Gravity of Love (Baladi Productions BLD12, 2016)

World music with a Middle Eastern edge, rock and pop intersect in the new album by American band Brothers of the Baladi. The group is celebrating its 40th anniversary with this new recording featuring rock instrumentation such as electric guitar, bass and drum kit along with a wide-range of world music instruments from the Middle East, South America, and Europe.

While many world fusion ensembles lean towards instrumental music, the Oregon-based Brothers of the Baladi features English-language vocals that bring the songs closer to a pop and rock audience. One of the songs has a Spanish language title, ¿Dónde están ahora? (where are they now?) and the group is known for also using other languages like Arabic, Turkish, Farsi, French, and Armenian.

Gravity of Love is the first album where Brothers of the Baladi has used electronic sounds and programming. The intention this time is to appeal to a pop audience, adding pop hooks and rhythms.

The lineup includes Michael Beach on lead vocals, dumbek, zarb, Eddie Kirkjan dumbeg, mizmar, zurna, midjwiz, nay, riq, tar, davul, and percussion; J. Michael Kearsey on vocals, Fender Jazz bass, percussion, and islik sesi; Clark Salisbury on vocals, oud, saz, guitar, dobro, charango, fretless bass, electronics and programming; Charles Pike on vocals, percussion, and drum kit. The guests are: Daniel Eshoo on kanoon (qanun) and Paul Beck on cymbalon.

Gravity of Love contains well-crafted instrumental performances within songs that will appeal to the mainstream.

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Harold Lopez-Nussa’s Sheer Coolness

Harold López-Nussa – El Viaje (Mack Avenue Records, 2016)

Composer and pianist Harold Lopez-Nussa’s El Viaje, out September 9th on the Mack Avenue Records label will certainly earn the cool kid on the block spot in Latin jazz offerings this year. Sleek and agile, El Viaje is comfortable in its own skin, devoid of pretension and without any ham-handed artistic wrestling.

Mr. Lopez-Nussa, along with his partners from his The Harold Lopez-Nussa Trio, Senegalese bassist and vocalist Alune Wade and drummer and percussionist Ruy Adrian Lopez-Nussa (who just happens to be Mr. Lopez-Nussa’s younger brother) and guest artist trumpeter and flugelhorn player Mayquel Gonzalez, tambores batá player and vocalist Dreiser Durruthy, percussionist Adel Gonzalez and the Lopez-Nussa patriarch and drummer Ruy Francisco Lopez-Nussa whips up a sound that is warm and compelling.

Hooking international influences from Africa, France and the West into his own brand of Cuban jazz, Mr. Lopez-Nussa fashions a sound that’s seamlessly sophisticated and globetrotting easy.

Mr. Lopez-Nussa says of the recording, “Having a non-Cuban musician on this recording speaks to our contact with other cultures. Especially with African culture, which is so far from ours geographically and yet so close. Every time we play, I believe we enter into a journey we are creating. Ever since I was a kid, since I began to study piano, music, I have tried; I have searched for that journey of the mind, always traveling with music. I remember that I started playing ‘El Viaje’ while on tour as a way of feeling closer to home, and when I’m here, it’s also a way for my mind to travel.”

With a career that includes recordings as New Day (2013), Havana – Paris – Dakar (2015), El Pais de las Maravillas (2011), Herencia (2009), Sobre El Atelier (2007) and Canciones (2011); a spot on the “Fourth Piano Concerto” by Heitor Villa-Lobos and a recording with Cuba’s National Symphony Orchestra; a first prize slot and an Audience Prize of the Jazz Solo Piano Competition at the Montreux Jazz Festival; a collaboration with David Sanchez, Christian Scott, Stefon Harris and a three year touring spot with band for the revered Omara Portuondo, Mr. Lopez-Nussa still finds his Havana hometown a creative well.

“I’ve always liked the idea of projecting myself to the world from here,” says Mr. Lopez-Nussa. “The personal ties are very strong for me. A lot ties me to this country. I want this to be my place to create—even if I can have those great experiences traveling. The personal is essential for my creative process. Being able to go out into the neighborhood where I grew up, a place that I know so well, walk on the Malecón, sit by the sea. This is where I want to be.”

Opening with the jaunty “Me Voy Pa’ Cuba,” El Viaje is a treat with compositions that unfold easily and organically with flashes of delicious rhythms, sleek horn lines and brilliant improvisational piano sections. Mr. Wade provides the vocals for the heady, Africa inspired “Africa,” before dazzling “Feria” takes over in a mix of Cuban party and jazz club with a little Thelonious Monk added in for good measure. The elegant bolero “Lobos’s Cha” is as much as a delight as is the hip sassiness of “Bacalao Con Pan.”

Other goodies include the elegant lines of brass and piano against delicious percussion on title track “El Viaje,” the bright breeziness of “Mozambique En Mi B” and sheer coolness conjured up on “D’Una Fabula.” Equally good is the sly musical journey that is “Inspiracion En Connecticut,” as well as the evocative sultry mystery whipped up Mr. Lopez-Nussa and company on “Oriente.”

Mr. Lopez-Nussa has ensured the conditions are good, the weather fair and the course of El Viaje is smooth and easy.

Buy El Viaje in the Americas

Buy El Viaje in Europe

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The Remarkable Travels of the Cavaquinho

Júlio Pereira Cavaquinho.pt (Tradisom, 2014)

Acclaimed Portuguese multi-instrumentalist Julio Pereira released an album titled Cavaquinho 30 years ago. This was a tribute to the small guitar called cavaquinho. Thirty years later, he revisits the potential of the cavaquinho with a new album titled Cavaquinho.pt featuring new musical pieces composed or arranged by Pereira.

The original ‘Cavaquinho’ album had a significant influence and defined Julio Pereira’s career as a musician. The new recording, Cavaquinho.pt is part of a larger project around the cavaquinho that includes research, inventorying the different variations of the instrument, scores, players, composers and builders around the world. The cavaquinho is related to other small guitars in the Iberian Peninsula and the predecessor of the ukulele. It has traveled around the world over the centuries, leaving descendants in Brazil, Cape Verde, Hawaii and Indonesia.

The music on Cavaquinho.pt incorporate various folk traditions from Minho in Portugal as well as the increasingly popular fado. In addition, it reflects the travels of the cavaquinho, featuring influences that go beyond the various regions of Portugal. For example, Sara Tavares, a singer of Cape Verdean descent appears on one song. There are also traditional songs from Brazil and Galicia (Spain).

The lineup on Cavaquinho.pt includes Julio Pereira on cavaquinho, viola braguesa (Braguese guitar), synthesizers and backing vocals; Miguel Veras on acoustic guitar; Fernando Araujo on bass; Quiné on percussion; Laurent Filipe on trumpet; Guto Lucena on flute; Daniel Pereira on gaita de foles (Portuguese bagpipe); Sara Tavares on vocals; Uxia on vocals; Luanda Cozetti on vocals; Sofia Vitoria on vocals; and Joao Afonso and C.R.A.M.O.L. on backing vocals.

 

 

The physical edition of Cavaquinho.pt is exquisitely packaged in a 112-page hard cover book, with extensive liner notes in Portuguese and English, photos, credits and beautiful illustrations by Pedro Sousa Pereira.

Júlio Pereira - Cavaquinho.pt
Júlio Pereira – Cavaquinho.pt

 

Julio Pereira started as a rock musician, playing electric guitar with progressive rock bands Petrus Castrus and Xarhanga. He later picked up the mandolin, braguesa guitar, Portuguese guitar and bouzouki. Encouraged by Zeca Afonso, the cavaquinho became his main focus.

 

 

Cavaquinho.pt is a remarkable recording dedicated to the cavaquinho recorded by one of the essential musicians in Portugal’s contemporary folk music scene.

Buy the album from www.tradisom.com

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Length & Time: Chouk Bwa Libete

I will be writing a column on Length & Time in music, in each presenting an album and its strategies that pertain to addressing Length & Time. 

Most bands who claim to be playing Vodou music are not really: there isn’t enough time to play music how it is required in a Vodou ceremony. The point of drumming, singing, etc, in a Vodou ceremony is for there to be a possession and or a communication with Vodou spirits.

There is no way that such a phenomenon can be formatted for radio. One would have to wait for the spirit to possess someone in a ceremony or record a believer’s singing in private to a spirit. In Haiti, a subgenre of Vodou music, Rasin, was created to be Vodou music that is meant for any sort of consumption, whether secular or sacred but tailored for radio use and for contemporary performance.

Some bands, however, aim to stay true to music how it is used in Vodou religion and they play Vodou as such, Rasin Seche, or whatever they would like to call it. Azor is perhaps the most notable Haitian musician of Vodou as such, or Rasin Seche. Like in a Vodou ceremony, he sang his songs as a Simidor, surrounded by Hounsi and Reines Chantrelles. His songs, because of this, were often up to 10 minutes long. Chouk Bwa Libete’s songs on Se Nou Ki La are midway between this raw Rasin Seche and the more commercial Rasin for both secular and non secular consumption. We hear Chouk Bwa Libete sing praises to themselves on this album as no Vodou spirit expects from an officiant.

It is, in the end, an album that makes use of length to express the art of the musicians on this album and not to be a Vodou album. The lengthiest song “Je M La” is 7:53, nowhere near the amount of time it takes on average to serve a Vodou spirit. It has no choice but to: the demand for Vodou music, ceremonial music, is very small. Instead, this album, like many other albums like it, plays Vodou rhythms and Vodou lyrics as art.

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Fervent Ojos De Novia

Mor Karbasi Ojos De Novia (Alama Records Alama 005, 2016)

Mor Karbasi has one of the most beautiful voices in the world music scene. Her latest album is Ojos De Novia (Eyes of the Bride) where she continues her fascinating explorations of Andalusian, Sephardic and North African Berber music.

From her current base in Sevilla (Spain), Mor Karbasi is able to experience the legacy of ancient traditions left by Jewish, Moorish and Christian communities in Spain.

Mor Karbasi’s superb band complements her extraordinary voice. Led by her partner, multi-instrumentalist Joe Taylor, the musicians enable Mor Karbasi to cross musical boundaries, ranging from Berber, Sephardic and Medieval songs to flamenco, plus the added spice of modern music elements.

The lineup on Ojos De Novia includes Mor Karbasi on vocals; Joe Taylor on guitar, trumpet, saz and toy piano; Shimon Ifrah (leader of the Jerusalem Andalus Orchestra) on vocals; Cameroonian bass maestro Richard Bona; Kai Eckhardt on bass; and masterful flamenco guitarist Jose Israel Torres.

Ojos De Novia is beautifully crafted and captures the passionate heartfelt vocals of Mor Karbasi and her talented multinational world music band.

Purchase Ojos De Novia in the Americas

Purchase Ojos De Novia in Europe

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Traditional and Modern Sounds from the Pacific

Various Artists - Discover Music from the Pacific with ARC Music (Arc Music, 2016)
Various Artists – Discover Music from the Pacific with ARC Music (Arc Music, 2016)

Discover Music from the Pacific with ARC Music gives the listener an opportunity to learn more about the music from the various islands of the Pacific Ocean. The compilation combines field recordings by David Fanshawe, including recordings of surf and other natural sounds as well as traditional music chants; along with contemporary studio recordings.

The best known act on the album is Te Vaka, an excellent band representing Tokelau and other Pacific Islands. They have traveled throughout the world, showcasing their mix of pop, folk and spectacular island percussion numbers.

Another familiar name is Hawaii’s Harry Kalapana, who plays the twangy traditional slack key guitar.

Islands represented include Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Hawaii, Tahiti, the Marquesas Islands, and Easter Island.

The CD booklet provides additional details about each track and the islands.

Discover Music from the Pacific is a likeable exploration of the vocal and percussion styles in the Pacific Ocean island communities.

Buy Discover Music from the Pacific with ARC Music

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A Memorable Meeting of Ladino and Chamber Music

Fifth House Ensemble and Baladino – Nedudim (Cedille Records, 2016)

Two outstanding ensembles representing diverse musical traditions collaborate on Nedudim. Fifth House Ensemble is an innovative American chamber music ensemble based in Chicago while Israeli group Baladino specializes in music from the Mediterranean and sounds from other parts of the world.

On Nedudim (wanderings in Hebrew), the two ensembles have selected a mix of traditional Ladino songs and original pieces by Fifth House Ensemble composer Dan Visconti, Baladino’s Thomas Moked Blum, Robert Beaser and Kenneth Benshoof. This meeting of minds combines contemporary classical, pop, European, North African, Middle Eastern and Indian influences.

Throughout Nedudim, Fifth House Ensemble and Baladino use a mix of classical musical instruments and instruments from various parts of the globe: Middle Eastern oud, shofar (ram’s horn) and ney; Armenian duduk, Bulgarian kaval, Australian didgeridoo, and Indian bansuri.

Fifth House Ensemble includes Melissa Snoza on flute; Grace Hong on oboe; Jennifer Woodrum on clarinet; Eric Heidbreder on bassoon; Valerie Whitney on horn; Charlene Kluegel on violin; Clark Carruth on viola; Herine Coetzee Koschak on cello; Eric Snoza on bass; Katherine Petersen on piano; Dan Visconti, composer.

Baladino’s lineup: Yonnie Dror on ney, shofar, bansuri, kaval, soprano saxophone, clarinet, didgeridoo; Thomas Moked Blum on oud; Yael Badash on vocals; Daniel Sapir on double bass; and Yshai Afterman on percussion.

Nedudim is an impeccable album with an extraordinary array of songs from Spain’s Jewish diaspora and the best of contemporary chamber music.

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Length & Time: Murray, Allen, and Carrington

Murray, Allen, and Carrington - Perfection
Murray, Allen, and Carrington – Perfection

I will be writing a column on Length & Time in music, in each presenting an album and its strategies that pertain to addressing Length & Time.

Town these days is a place where opposing political ideologies confront the other or work with the other to define life and space. Children sing along to mass culture songs, though in love with the humanity in having heard the song on a car ride with a parent on a parent’s day off thanks to the local labor union.

The other side of town, these days, is where profound artistry thrives. Town is the place for song, music with text, and for the musical solo in a song. The other side of town is where pieces thrive, music without texts, along side more poetic songs than those in town. Pieces require plunging into and so sitting for a while at the other side of town despite town’s attraction, often until music’s end.

Murray, Allen, and Carrington are: David Murray, Geri Allen and Terri Lyne Carrington. They are three ambitious musicians whose album’s cover communicates hip as much as any album cover in town. Their album Perfection is of 10 pieces, each a thrilling piece of excellent instrumentation.

The song named “Perfection” is, in terms of the musical technique  of its musicians, objectively perfection. In terms of if it pleases a listener is a whole other question though its fast pace and Murray’s Sax parts will hardly bore. “Barbara Allen” is another great piece made from the ballad “Barbara Allen,” at a time the most popular song based on the sale of broadsheets in the US; on the other side of town, pieces are produced from songs and are gorgeous.

“Cycles and Seasons” could have had a simpler name, like “walking down whichever street” and it would have been the case during the heyday of Jazz as popular music (Kind of Blue.) With these musicians at the helm of an album, complexity is King and Queen. Complexity, here, flows well and it is this album’s forte.

These songs are not radio songs though they could be played on radio. They are formatted to stir and jolt with instrumentation and feel much longer than  their actual lengths. What they bring to their time is phrasing from that other side of town, where women and men devise and implement ideals to benefit human life.

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Basque Trad Meets Hurdy Gurdy

Bidaia – Agur Shiva (Bidaia, 2011)

Bidaia is a duo that plays contemporary Basque folk music mixed with global sounds. What stands out is the combination of traditional Basque instruments like the alboka (a small hornpipe played with circular breathing) with the hurdy gurdy.

On the album Agur Shiva we find Basque musician Mixel Ducau and American hurdy gurdy player Caroline Phillips. The duo sings in Basque and is joined by various guests who bring in a wide-range of instruments and musical influences.

Throughout the album you’ll listen to traditional Basque music influences from the Basque provinces in France and Spain, Medieval sounds, North African and Indian percussion, Middle Eastern ud, Cajun, Indian mantras, and some jazz-style improvisation.

Mixel Ducau is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, vocalist and songwriter who played in legendary Basque-rooted progressive rock group Errobi. Caroline Phillips is a hurdy gurdy virtuoso and singer-songwriter from California, of Greek and Persian origin. She appeared on a TED Talk when she presented Hurdy-gurdy for beginners at TED Global in 2010.

The line-up on Agur Shiva includes Mixel Ducau on vocals, guitar, alboka and bamboo clarinet; Caroline Phillips on vocals and hurdy gurdy. Guests featured: Iñigo Egia on percussion; Amaiur Cajaraville on bass; Aziz Fayet on ud and darbuka; Elixabet Dufour on pandero (frame drum) and chirula (three-holed flute), Claude Cellan on washboard; Christophe “Kiki” Grasciel on harmonica; Harkaitz Martinez de San Vicente and Mikel Ugarte on stone chalaparta; Niko Etxart, Petti and Alaia Phillips Ducau on vocals; and Boris Witbois provides the om mantra chant.

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