Category Archives: CD Reviews

Blue Harp Perspectives

Amelia Romano – New Perspectives

 

Amelia Romano – New Perspectives (indie release, 2017)

American harpist Amelia Romano plays a mix of instrumentals and songs on New Perspectives, scheduled for release later this month. I was drawn to her instrumentals, which is where she shows her talent as a harp player and composer.

Romano’s music combines blues, jazz, classical and Latin American music elements like joropo from Venezuela, Argentine tango and Mexican-style bolero. She likes to explore unpredictable rhythms from Latin America, a region with a remarkable harp tradition, although she breaks stereotypes by playing what is normally a man’s instrument.

 

 

Amelia Romano enjoys using her beautiful cobalt blue harp to extract new sounds, textures and also as an attractive visual element.

 

 

With New Perspectives, Amelia Romano shows great potential as a genre-defying composer and arranger.

 

Amelia Romano

 

Buy the digital version of New Perspectives

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Paris Texas via Tucson

Naïm Amor and John Convertino – The Western Suite and Siesta Songs (Living Music Duplication, 2016)

The first thing that springs to mind listening to Naïm Amor and John Convertino’s new instrumental album, The Western Suite and Siesta Songs, is the 1984 movie, Paris, Texas and Ry Cooder’s atmospheric soundtrack. It’s a coincidence, given Amor is a Parisian musician living in Tucson, while Convertino still works in Tucson but resides in El Paso, Texas. The duo’s new album was recorded in Arizona and Ohio, mixed and finished in Tucson and released by Albuquerque label, Living Music Duplication.

It’s a collaboration of open possibilities, a strong sense of place and a deep love of landscape. And it’s the openness that makes it stand out – their openness to cross cultures and continents in pursuit of their own sound. On his website, Amor describes the record as “the perfect soundtrack to a drive through the desert Southwest”.

The record opens with “Round Em Up”, a pared back western soundtrack a la “The Good The Bad and The Ugly” complete with a whistled theme. “Rye Grass Waltz” has a whimsical feel, all blue sky and golden grasses dancing, though you could equally be sipping a crisp vin blanc in Montmartre. The haunting “Of Dust and Wind” evokes the unease and isolation of the desert. “Jelly-Roll Tango” was a piece touted for Convertino’s band Calexico, but works beautifully in this collection – get that red rose between your teeth.

Both of these multi-talented guys play numerous instruments on the record: Amor the guitars, strings, lapsteel voices and whistles, and Convertino the drums, pianos, marimba, vibraphone and glockenspiel. They penned half the tracks each, then added their own influences to each other’s. It’s not the first time they’ve collaborated, with Amor having contributed to Calexico’s Feast of Wire and Convertino having played in ABBC (Amor Belhom Burns Convertino). It’s a fun listen, perfect for daydreaming and a siesta.

Buy The Western Suite and Siesta Songs in the Americas and rest of the world

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Tamikrest, The Sahara Desert as a Place of Freedom

Tamikrest – Kidal (Glitterbeat Records, 2017)

Sitting back and listening to the latest recording Kidal by Mali’s desert blues/rock group Tamikrest, I wondered if I would have even heard about the continuing struggles of the Tuareg and other desert peoples if it weren’t for the lush music spilling out of the Sahara by way of groups like Tamikrest and other musician groups like Terakaft, Tinariwen and Etran Finatawa or the powerful Sahrawi singer and musician Mariem Hassan. Sadly, I think few would even know that people live and travel these remote parts of the Sahara much less know about the struggle to maintain their nomadic identity if it weren’t for the music.

Fortunately for us Glitterbeat Records has got all the little music junkies out there covered with Tamikrest and their latest Kidal set for release on March 17th. Following up on previous recordings Adagh, Toumastin, Chatma and Taksera, Tamikrest again wraps up listeners in the familiar sleek guitars, rolling rhythms and meaty vocals on Kidal.

Recorded in Bamako, Mali, Kidal gets some extra special treatment with producer Mark Mulholland from Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra and mixer David Odlum who earned a Grammy for his work with the group Tinariwen. Two years in the making, Kidal is worth every single track.

Tamikrest leader Ousmane Ag Mossa says of the recording, “Kidal talks about dignity. We consider the desert as an area of freedom to live in. But many people consider it as just a market to sell multinational companies, and for me, that is a major threat to the survival of our nomadic people.”

Opening with those familiar desert blues riffs on “Mawarniha Tartit,” Tamikrest lays down a sound that’s hypnotic and driven. Packed with guitar, percussion and drums, Kidal kicks some serious rock riffs. Tracks like “Manhouy Inerizhan,” “War Toyed” and “War Tila Eridaran” are brilliantly fiery, but its tracks like slower and bluesy “Atwitas” that blow the listener away with its sleek, edgy guitar, laced in kora lines and roughed over vocals.

Kidal is chocked full of goodies like the acoustic guitar led “Tanakra,” the fabulously trippy and immensely satisfying “Ehad Wad Nadorhan” and the folksy, homey “Erres Hin Atouan” with its call and response vocals. There’s also the rocking “Adoutat Salilagh” and the sweetly worked closing track “Adad Osan Itibat” to satisfy all your desert blues/rock needs.

Kidal is power to the people through music and it doesn’t get any better than that.

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Hot 8 Brass Band, Masters of New Orleans Jazz

Hot 8 Brass Band – On The Spot (TruThoughts, 2017)

The best American brass band tradition in the United States comes from New Orleans and one of the finest bands currently is Hot 8 Brass Band. Their irresistible hip-shaking style incorporates traditional New Orleans jazz mixed with funk.

 

 

On The Spot gives the listener the feel of an enticing New Orleans band playing in the street during celebrations. “We are privileged to tour and to tell the stories of life in our city, to keep alive the memories of our band members who have passed, as well as all the musicians who have gone before”, says band leader and tuba player Bennie Pete.

 

 

Hot 8 Brass Band will embark on an international tour in March. This will be great opportunity to experience the unique sound of New Orleans performed by some of the most talented horn players and percussionists in the current scene.

‘On The Spot’ Tour Dates (with more TBA)

1 March, The Triffid, Brisbane, QLD (AUS)
2 March, Solbar, Sunshine Coast, QLD (AUS)
3 March, Tanks Arts Centre, Cairns, QLD (AUS)
4 March, Girrakool Blues Festival & BBQ, Girrakool, NSW (AUS)
8 March, Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, NSW (AUS)
9 March, Badlands, Perth, WA (AUS)
10 March, WOMADelaide, Adelaide, SA (AUS)
11 March, WOMADelaide, Adelaide, SA (AUS)
15 March, Brunswick Music Festival, Melbourne, VIC (AUS)
17 March, WOMAD New Zealand (NZ)
18 March, WOMAD New Zealand (NZ)
4 April, The Roundhouse, London (UK)
5 April, The Quarterhouse, Folkestone (UK)
6 April, Rescue Rooms, Nottingham (UK)
7 April, Invisible Wind Factory, Liverpool (UK)
8 April, Old Granada Studios, Manchester (UK)
9 April, Guild Hall, Preston (UK)
11 April, Liquid Room, Edinburgh (UK)
12 April, O2 ABC, Glasgow (UK)
13 April, The Wardrobe, Leeds (UK)
14 April, O2 Academy, Birmingham (UK)
16 April, Transatlantik Festival, Hamburg (GER)
19 April, Webster Hall Marlin Room, New York, NY (USA)
20 April, Jammin’ Java, Vienna, VA (USA)
21 April, Milkboy, Philadelphia, PA (USA)
22 April, ONCE Ballroom, Somerville, MA (USA)
29 April, Katowice Jazz Art, Katowice (PL)
1 May, Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Cheltenham (UK)
2 May, O2 Academy Sheffield, Sheffield (UK)
3 May, The Fleece, Bristol (UK)
4 May, Tramshed, Cardiff (UK)
5 May, The Factory, Barnstaple (UK)
8 May, Boiler shop, Newcastle (UK)
9 May, The Welly, Hull (UK)
10 May, Warwick Arts Centre, Warwick (UK)
11 May, Pocklington Arts Centre, Pocklington (UK)
12 May, The Soundcrash Funk & Soul Weekender, Camber Sands (UK)
17 May, New Morning, Paris (FR)
19 May, Open Air, Voiron (FR) [early show]
19 May, Le Fil – Radio Nova Nuit Zébrée, St Etienne (FR) [LATE SHOW]
20 May, Rush, Rouen (FR)
27 May, Denver Day of Rock, Denver, CO (USA)
30 May, The Crocodile, Seattle, WA (USA)
31 May, Wonder Ballroom, Portland, OR (USA)
1 June, The Dip, Redding, CA (USA)
2 June, The Independent, San Francisco, CA (USA)
3 June, Saint Rocke, Hermosa Beach, CA (USA)
4 June, House Of Blues San Diego – Voodoo Room, San Diego, CA (USA)
7 June, Antone’s, Austin, TX (USA)
8 June, Warehouse Live, Houston, TX (USA)
10 June, House of Blues, New Orleans, LA (USA) HOMETOWN RECORD RELEASE PARTY

Buy On The Spot in the Americas

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A Remarkable New Voice from Cuba

Daymé Arocena – Cubafonía (Brownswood Recordings, 2017)

If you haven’t heard yet about Daymé Arocena, her new album Cubafonía is a great opportunity to listen to one of the best voices that has come out of Cuban in recent years.

Winner of the significant Marti y el Arte award in 2007, Daymé Arocena demonstrates her formidable talent by crossing musical boundaries with her voice. She shows her mastery at Cuban traditional genres like mambo and changüí, Afro-Cuban chants, and ballads, as well as the more modern timba. However, her repertoire is more extensive as she explores American soul and jazz effortlessly.

Cubafonía is Daymé’s second album and very different from her debut album. While her debut Havana Cultura Sessions focused on electronic dance music culture, Cubafonía features an irresistible acoustic rhythm section and more conventional instrumentation.

 

 

 

Most of the songs are in Spanish, although Daymé also sings a couple of songs in English and has a trilingual song titled “Valentine” where she inserts some English and French.

 

In recent months, Cuban musicians have released a series of dazzling piano-based albums. Cubafonía focuses on vocal talent and Daymé Arocena is one of the best and equally spectacular.

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The Hybrid Sounds of Belgium’s Zanzibar

Zanzibar – Fiali in Chicago

Zanzibar – Fiali in Chicago (Home Records, 2016)

Belgian multi-ethnic band Zanzibar plays an unexpected mix of rhythmic Afropop music, harmonica-based American blues, boogie woogie, jazz, Haitian folk music and even a traditional African American prison work song titled “‘Berta ‘Berta”.

Zanzibar uses vocals in various languages, including English, French, Kirundi (language of Burundi) and Haitian Creole.

Band members include vocalist Desire Ntemere from Burundi on vocals; Belgian multi-instrumentalist Renaud Patigny on piano, keyboards, balafon, and vocals; Kankan Bayo from Guinea Conakry on percussion and vocals; and Belgian harmonica ace Genevieve Dartevelle, who also plays didgeridoo.

Genevieve Dartevelle delivers outstanding performances on the harmonica.

Fiali in Chicago is available from homerecords.downloadbox.eu

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Darandi Celebrates 30 Years of Garifuna Icon Aurelio Martinez

Aurelio – Darandi (Real World Records, 2017)

Honduran singer-songwriter Aurelio Martinez’s fourth album celebrates his thirty years as a performer and defender of Garifuna culture with this new album titled Darandi. The recording was made at Real World Records while Aurelio and his band were on tour in the UK. The idea was to capture the live feel of the band.

The song selection includes Aurelio’s best known and most popular songs from throughout his career, a mix of originals and new versions of traditional Garifuna songs sung in the Garifuna language.

Although Aurelio has played various forms of music throughout the past decades, including punta rock, this album focuses on a more traditional form called parranda (the English language writers call it paranda). Parranda is a Spanish word that has several meanings, but it’s always connected to musicians and partying at night. The Garifuna form of parranda is characterized by vocals, acoustic percussion and guitars.

Aurelio’s style features a unique electric guitar sound that has African, Latin American, blues, and surf influences. It’s played by Guayo Cedeño, one of Honduras’ best guitarists.

One of Aurelio’s main goals is to reach Garifuna youth. “I want young Garifuna people to hear the problems they are living with reflected in my songs, and dance with those same problems.” In his songs, he references subjects such as safe sex and migration to the United States. He passionately hopes that the children who aren’t learning to speak the Garifuna language will be inspired by his music to sing in their traditional language.

The album comes packaged in a beautiful hard cover book with an extensive biography, photographs, illustrations and details about Garifuna culture. There is also a history of the Garifuna people and how they ended up in various countries in Central America. The booklet includes a map that shows the migration progress starting from African slave ship wrecks. Although the map indicates that it was two Spanish slave ships, this is not settled fact and other sources point to a Dutch slave ship expedition or even Portuguese slave ships.

Currently, the Garifuna live in about 50 towns on Central America’s Caribbean coast, extending from Belize down through Guatemala and Honduras all the way to Nicaragua. Although the Garifuna still share a common culture, the Garifuna language is disappearing. And the culture is under threat by religious missionaries and commercial interests connected to the tourism industry.

The lineup on the album includes Aurelio Martinez on lead vocals, acoustic guitar, maracas; Guayo Cedeño on lead electric guitar; Emilio Alvarez on bass; Onan Castillo on Garifuna drum (primero); Joel Martinez on Garifuna drum (segundo); Desiree Diego on backing vocals; Chela Torres on backing vocals; and Sheldon Petillo on backing vocals.

Darandi is a beautiful-crafted set of songs by the leading Garifuna artist at this time.

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Enthralling Tenbur and Zaza Music

Cemîl Qoçgîrî – Zalâl (Ahenk, 2016)

Zalâl is the fifth album by German multi-instrumentalist and composer Cemîl Qoçgîrî. Cemîl is one of the finest performers of the tenbur (tenbûr), a Kurdish long-necked lute that is related to the saz.

On Zalâl, Cemîl Qoçgîrî combines ancient Anatolian musical influences with western chamber musical forms. He also uses rare Zazaki vocals. Zazaki (also known as Zaza, Kirmanjki and Dimli) is used by the Zaza Kurds in eastern Turkey and is one of the oldest languages in Mesopotamia. The Zazaki language has been classified by UNESCO as a “language threatened with extinction“.

When language, music, art and culture are lost, the understanding and communication between peoples are lost as well,” says Cemîl Qoçgîrî.

The lineup on Zalâl includes Cemîl Qoçgîrî on tenbur, guitar, and percussion; Mikaîl Aslan on qirnata; Susanne Hirsch on cello; Manuel Lohnes on bass; Eser Baki on tenbur; Nure Dovlanî on violin; Ben Neubrech on guitar; Andre Nendza on bass; Kadir Doğan on percussion; Elif Gökdemir on flute; and Tolga Keleşm on zirne.

The CD booklet contains lyrics in Zazaki with English-language translations as well as biographical information about Cemîl Qoçgîrî.

Zalâl is a beautifully-crafted album that contains mesmerizing performances on the tenbur and the warm vocals of Cemîl Qoçgîrî.

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World Jazz Evolutionists

Adam Rudolph’s Moving Pictures – Glare of the Tiger (M.O.D. Technologies, 2017)

Glare of the Tiger is a series of remarkable world music jams performed by a superb collective of forward-thinking jazz musicians led by acclaimed composer and percussionist Adam Rudolph.

Throughout the album, the rhythm section lays out a solid foundation of creative percussion and bass over which you get a series of horn, electronic keyboard and guitar melodic evolutions and improvisations that mix jazz, jazz-rock and world music elements. You can hear influences from Ethiopian, Indian and Gnawa music at times, and from many other parts of the world.

Adam Rudolph plays a wide range of percussion instruments, including a drum set composed of hand drums from different traditions: Haitian kongos, West African jembe and Moroccan tarija (small frame drum).

The state of the art recording of Glare of the Tiger was made at Bill Laswell’s Orange Music Studio with James Dellatacoma as head engineer.

The lineup on Moving Pictures includes Adam Rudolph on handrum set, sintir, cajón, itótele, glockenspiel, gongs, additional percussion; Alexis Marcelo on Fender Rhodes, electric keyboards & Hammond B3; Damon Banks on electric bass; Graham Haynes on cornet, flugelhorn, electronics; Hamid Drake on drum set, percussion; James Hurt on sogo and kidi drums, oghene bell, okónkolo, Fender Rhodes, smart phone synthesizer module and sound design; Kenny Wessel on electric guitar, electronics; and Ralph M. Jones on c flute, alto flute, bass clarinet, soprano and tenor saxophones, husli and bamboo flutes.

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The Best of Multi-Instrumentalist Baluji Shrivastav

Baluji Shrivastav featuring The InnerVision Orchestra – Best of Baluji Shrivastav (ARC Music EUCD2695, 2017)

“Awesome” is an awesomely overused word these days, and applied to music with a repugnant frequency that waters down the word’s meaning. It is intended to be easily accessible in the toolboxes of writers and speakers as, more or less, “’superlative,’ but without the cravat.” It is frustrating to a reviewer to have “awesome” watered down when it comes to mind so readily and naturally regarding Baluji Shrivastav. His actual name is Dhanonday Shrivastav (Officer of the Order of the British Empire, OBE).

Multi-instrumentalists who are truly competent with instruments of different general families (string, percussion, vocals, etc.) are rare and awesome enough, multi-instrumentalists who are blind from babyhood are at the tip of the awesomeness iceberg and blind instrumentalists working and recording with a 14-piece jazz ensemble made up entirely of visually impaired musicians from all around the globe are … “awesunique” comes to mind, a sniglet invented to combine “awesome” and “unique” for the specific purpose of lauding Baluji Shrivastav with a term unlikely to be watered down through overuse.

This 14-song anthology spans over three decades of recordings and reflects the artist’s explorations of several genres and bandstand partnerships. Three of the 14, “Discovering London & Friendship,” “Walking Through The Streets” and “Mixing with the Crowd and Spirit of Joy,” comprise a fascinating description of the man’s move to London, taking in the city’s ambiance without the sense of sight. Each of these three cuts is overdue for use in a film soundtrack, as is another piece written by the artist’s daughter, “The Way I Feel.” Of the CD cuts, these four particularly disprove Rudyard Kipling’s truism, “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet,” for East and West intermesh seamlessly here.

From start to finish, from folk-rooted Indian ragas to rich orchestral pieces, this anthology delights and rewards a general listenership. It is, in short, “awesunique.”

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