Category Archives: CD Reviews

Shams: Tajik Jazz

Baraka – Shams

Baraka – Shams (Sketis Music, 2015)

Shams is a 2-CD set by Latvian band Baraka. They describe their music ethno jazz, a term used in Eastern Europe to describe fusions of jazz and world music. Baraka’s sound is rooted in Tajik traditions as well as jazz. Most of the material on Shams are smooth jazz songs featuring vocals by Devika Evsikova spiced up with acoustic musical instruments from Tajikistan, India and other parts of the world.

The highlights of the album are the Tajik funk sections along with the tasty electric piano, sitar and rubob solos.

The lineup includes Devika Evsikova on vocals, bass; Dmitry Evsikov on all percussion, arrangements; Artem Sarvi on piano, keyboards, arrangement; Deniss Pashkevich on flute, sax, bass clarinet, Egor Kovaikov on guitar, sitar, rubob, setor, dutor, vocal; Madars Kalninš on piano, keyboards; Viktor Ritov piano, keyboards; Raivo Stašans on saxophone; Valery Korotkov on piano, synths, arrangements; Omed Dost on vocals; Normund Piesis on flugelhorn, trumpet; Sergey Gasanov on saz, dilruba, duduk, vocals; Zigmund Žukovsky on bass; Alijon Boynazarov on rap; Govinda Tiwari on vocals; Alex Suris on accordion; Basel Wehbe on vocala; and Vilnis Kundrats on saxophone.

The set comes nicely packaged in a hard cover sleeve with a CD booklet that includes illustrations and credits.

Buy Shams in Europe

Buy Shams in the rest of the world


Stambeli through a Jazz Perspective

Nasheet Waits, Vincent Ségal, and Yacine Boularès – Abu Sadiya

Nasheet Waits, Vincent Ségal, and Yacine Boularès – Abu Sadiya (Accords Croisés, 2017)

Abu Sadiya is a jazz album inspired by Stambeli, a type of healing trance music from Tunisia that was developed by Sub-Saharan slaves. This international collaboration features musicians from Tunisia, France and the United States. Abu Sadiya recreates the traditional Tunisian sounds through an avant-garde jazz prism. You’ll find jazz improvisation along with rhythms similar to the gnawa.

The lineup includes Yacine Boularès on saxophones, clarinet; Vincent Segal on cello; and Nasheet Waits on drums.

The hard cover album includes a mini-book with photos, illustrations and liner notes in English and French.

Buy Abu Sadiya in Europe

Buy Abu Sadiya in the rest of the world


Melodic Kora Designs

Kane Mathis – Counterpoints

Kane Mathis – Counterpoints (2017)

American composer and multi-instrumentalist Kane Mathis has been a student and player of the West African kora for many years. On Counterpoints he delivers a set of 6 musical pieces played on a Mandinka Magic kora, crafted by luthier Jeffrey Bodony.

Counterpoints includes 4 traditional Mandinka melodies along with two original compositions, “Mamaandi” and “Sila Mesengo” by Mathis.

Counterpoints is a remarkable collection of solo pieces on the 21-string West African harp known as kora.

The album is available from


Timelessly Crafted Welsh Songs

Gwyneth Glyn – Tro (bendigedig BENDI1, 2017)

Tro is the first release on a new label called bendigedig which is dedicated to Welsh music talent. The first album is by rising talent Gwyneth Glyn. On Tro, songwriter, poet and musician Gwyneth Glyn delivers a set of original, intimate acoustic songs sung in Welsh and English. It’s a fascinating mix of Welsh traditions with world music elements from India and Africa. Acclaimed kora player Seckou Keita makes a guest appearance on the album.

The lineup on Tro includes Gwyneth Glyn on vocals and guitar; Rowan Rheingans on banjo, bansitar, violin, vocals; Seckou Keita on kora; Patrick Rimes on violins; Gillian Stevens on viol, crwth; Jordan Price Williams on double bass; Mark O’Connor on drums, percussion; Dylan Fowler on guitar, mandocello, dobro, kantele, tabwrdd, mbira, electric bass; and Dan Lawrence on shruti.

Tro is an impeccable example of open minded folk music craftsmanship.

Buy Tro in Europe

Buy Tro in the rest of the world


Entrancing Chadenn

Le Bour – Bodros – Chadenn

Le Bour – Bodros – Chadenn (Paker Productions, 2016)

Timothée Le Bour and Youen Bodros is a duo that performs contemporary acoustic music inspired by Breton folk music traditions, jazz and even bits of trance-like sounds. While Bodros plays the accordion, which is frequently used in folk music, Le Bour uses saxophones, replacing the traditional folk wind instruments.

The most fascinating part of the album is the accordion and saxophone interplay as well as the use of vocal chants delivered by the two instrumentalists. Equally charming is Rozenn Talec, a guest lead vocalist, who sings in the Breton language.

Percussionist Gaëtan Samson supports the trio on frame drums and various other percussion instruments.

The CD version includes lyrics in Breton and French.

Buy the CD edition of Chadenn or the digital download version


Southwestern Healing Flute

Jonah Littlesunday – Gratitude – Native American Flute Healing

Jonah Littlesunday – Gratitude – Native American Flute Healing (Canyon Records, 2017)

Gratitude – Native American Flute Healing is an album of meditative flute music performed by Navajo (Diné) artist Jonah Littlesunday. It’s instrumental, evocative reverb-fueled solo flute accompanied by subtle hand percussion that brings forward colorful images of the southwest.

Jonah Littlesunday uses his flute as a healing tool. He uses it to pray for children, elders, hospital patients and injured animals.

Guests include Stephen Butler on percussion and Roman Orona on vocals.


The Fascinating Folk Music Traditions of Horňácko

Various Artists – Antologie moravské lidové hudby – CD 1 – Horňácko

Various Artists – Antologie moravské lidové hudby – CD 1 – Horňácko (Indies Scope, 2011)

Antologie moravské lidové hudby – Horňácko is the first volume of a CD collection of traditional Moravian folk music. CD 1 focuses on the region of Horňácko, in the Czech Republic.

Horňácko is located in southeastern Moravia, in the base of the White Carpathian Mountains, close to Slovakia. The region has a rich folk music tradition characterized by the sound of masterful fiddles, cimbalom (hammered dulcimer), bagpipes and vocals.

Several families have kept ancient traditions ranging from sorrowful songs to lively dances. The family names include the Kubík, Miklošek, Miškeřík, Prachař, Ďuga, Holý, Hrbáč, Hudeček, Kománek, Slovák, Zeman, Šácha, Okénka, Pešek, Sup, Kohút, Prášek, Pšurný, Zálešák, Mička, Galečka, Valíček, Trachtulec and Minks.

The CD includes an extensive booklet with biographical information about the artists in Czech and English. Although each volume is available separately, there is a boxed set option that includes anthologies from other regions.

The album is available from


Rubén Blades’ Tribute to Legendary Latin Music Big Bands

Rubén Blades – Salsa Big Band (Rubén Blades Producciones, 2017)

Rubén Blades, one of the undisputed masters of salsa music, has released his second album recorded with the formidable Roberto Delgado & Orquesta. As the album title indicates, this recording is a tribute to the 1950s jazz and Latin jazz big bands, many of which were influenced by Cuban music big bands.

There is plenty of well-deserved Panamanian pride in this album. Rubén Blades hails from Panama and Roberto Delgado & Orquesta are Panamanian as well and the album was recorded in Panama. The partnership between Rubén Blades and superb arranger and big band leader Roberto Delgado delivers a set of outstanding songs where you’ll find the best of salsa and Latin jazz, highlighting Rubén’s unique vocals and masterful songwriting along with a large combo of talented instrumentalists.



The lineup on Salsa Big Band includes Rubén Blades on lead and backing vocals; Roberto Delgado on baby bass, electric bass, acoustic bass and backing vocals; Juan Berna on piano; Marcos Barraza on congas; Carlos Pérez-Bidó on timbales; Raúl “Toto” Rivera on bongo, bell, güiros and maracas; Ademir Berrocal on congas, timbales, bongo and bell; Juan Carlos “Wichy” López on trumpets; Alejandro “Chichisín” Castillo on trumpets and trombones; Francisco Delvecchio on trombone; Avenicio “Pin” Núñez on trombone; Carlos Ubarte on soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophone; Luis Enrique Becerra on keyboards.

Guests: Ricky Rodriguez on piano; Juan Carlos De León on piano; Robinson Fereira on piano; and Pablo Governatori on drums.

Salsa Big Band demonstrates that Rubén Blades is still at the top of the salsa world; a candidate for one of the best albums of the year.

Buy the Salsa Big Band digital download version


Dutch Tangueros

El Juntacadaveres – Twists and Turns

El Juntacadaveres – Twists and Turns (Zimbraz/Music & Words, 2015)

El Juntacadaveres (the corpse gatherer) is a Netherlands-based band led by Argentine multi-instrumentalist Enrique Noviello. On Twists and Turns, the multinational band presents a tasty mix or Argentine tango and folk rhythms with jazz, funk, twang, reggae and rock.

The band’s sound revolves around the interactions between and saxophone, bandoneon and Santanaesque-electric guitar.

The lead vocals are in Spanish and English. In some songs, the band includes rapping that is somewhat annoying.

Lineup: Enrique Noviello on vocals, bandoneon, saxophone, organ, guitars, percussion; Kris “Scale” Strybos on vocals, scratches; Onan Van De Weyer on electric guitar; Patrick Vankeirsbilck on bandoneon; Domingo De Jesús López on grand piano; Michel Spiessens on bass; and Luc Bas on drums.


San Francisco’s Zanzibar

Zanzibar – Zanzibar

Zanzibar – Zanzibar (Zanzibar, 2014)

American band Zanzibar delivers a rhythmically powerful mix of Afro-Funk, Afro-Latin music and rock. The vocals by this San Francisco-based are in various languages, including English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French.

Personnel: Chris Robison on guitar and percussion; Kerry Wing on lead vocals, guitar and percussion; Eric Tabellion on bass, background vocals and percussion; Tim Hilborn on drums, percussion, trumpet, and vocals; Ricardo Molina on percussion and vocals; and David Hipshman on tenor saxophone and flute.