Category Archives: CD Reviews

Idan Raichel Sings About Longing, Love, and Home


Idan Raichel – And If You Will Come To Me

Idan Raichel – And If You Will Come To Me (Cumbancha, 2019)

Israeli artist Idan Raichel has two edges to his music. On one side, he is a highly successful artist in the area of Israeli pop. The other side is world music. Raichel has collaborated in the past with well-known artists such as Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré.

On the album And If You Will Come To Me, we find Raichel’s two sides. A large part of the album is Israeli pop, sung in Hebrew, with reggae, Middle Eastern and electronic dance music influences.

Cuba and Israel meet on “La eternidad que se perdió,” a fascinating collaboration with Cuban singer Danay Suarez featuring Cuban and Israeli musicians.

Another world music-leaning track, “isImidiwanine,” highlights Nigerien star Bombino who delivers Tuareg desert blues vocals and guitars set to electronic dance beats.

The acclaimed Idan Raichel Project reappears on “Ketero,” a song with a deep Ethiopian flavor.

Other guests on the album include Israeli stars Berry Sakharof and Zehava Ben.

Reichel will be presenting “And If You Will Come to Me” in the USA, the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden and other countries.

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Relaxing Guitar Instrumentals from Jim Kimo West


Jim Kimo West – Moku Maluhia: Peaceful Island

Jim Kimo West – Moku Maluhia: Peaceful Island (Westernmost Records, 2018)

Moku Maluhia: Peaceful Island presents a set of melodic solo guitar works by Hawaiian slack key guitarist Jim Kimo West. The tranquil instrumental tracks have  a deep Hawaiian flavor and nicely-crafted guitar overdubs.

Jim Kimo West uses various guitars and tunings described in the CD booklet.

Moku Maluhia: Peaceful Island celebrates the beauty of Hawaii, its landscapes, wildlife, the sea, rivers, tidepools and simpler life.

The album includes guest appearances by George Abe on shakuhachi flute and Simone Vitucci on cello.

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The Colors of Africa


Pierre Akendengue – La Couleur de l’Afrique

Pierre Akendengue – La Couleur de l’Afrique (Lusafrica, 2018)

Pierre Akendengue, one of the most iconic singer-songwriters of Gabon, released La Couleur de l’Afrique last year. This 4-track EP presents his view of life in different parts of Africa.

Akendengue, who is in his seventies, has a warm voice, backed by a female chorus, intricate guitar and percussion with a charming mix of Afropop and traditional rhythms.

The lyrics are in French and his native language, and express Akendengue’s sentiments about Pan-Africanism and love for Africa. There is also anger at politicians who cause civil discord, including a song titled Letter to Laurent Gbagbo, referring to the former Ivorian president who refused to step down after elections.

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Bassekou Kouyate’s Impeccably Crafted Music

Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba – Miri (Out Here Records, 2019)

Over the years Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba have dazzled fans with recordings like Ba Power (2015), Jama Ko (2013), I Speak Fula (2010) and Segu Blue (2007), so it can come as no surprise that Mr. Kouyate and the members of Ngoni Ba are back at it, serving up some equally fabulous music on their fifth studio album called Miri (meaning dream or contemplation in the Bamana language) from Mr. Kouyate’s original label Out Here Records.

Dipping into topics like love, family, friendship and current struggles over ethnic differences, power and climate change, Mr. Kouyate puts a finger on the pulse of Mali and an every changing world and gives it to us good by way of impeccably crafted music and singsong vocals.

Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba – Miri

Miri proves rich and rewarding Malian fare from the opening track “Kanougnon” with its sweet vocals and oud by guest artist Majid Bekkas against the intricate delicacies of ngoni on this searching for love song. Equally delicious is “Deli,” a song about friendship that boasts some outstanding percussion. Joining Mr. Kouyate on his own lead ngoni and Ngoni Ba members Amy Sacko on lead vocals, Abou Sissoko on medium ngoni, Madou Kouyate on bass ngoni, Mahamadou Tounkara on doundoun, tama and yabara and Moctar Kouyate on cabasse on the track “Kanto Kelena” is vocalist Habib Koite. Fans get a dose of Cuba on “Wele Cuba” with guest singer Yasel Gonzalez Rivera from the group Madera Limpia.

Title track “Miri” is a stunning instrumental track. Interestingly, the track is based on the Mr. Kouyate’s experiences as a child playing by the Niger River near his hometown Garana. Musically, Mr. Kouyate struggles with the easy memories of playing by the river with Mali’s current struggles with the Islamist movement, falling tourism and climate change that has dried out parts of the Niger River. It is through the music that Mr. Kouyate dreams of peace in his country.

There are other goodies like the twangy touches of Mr. Kouyate’s bottleneck slide ngoni on bluesy “Wele Ni” with vocals by Abdoulaye Diabate, some fiery percussion and ngoni lines on the track “Konya” and the rich vocals of Amy Sacko on the bluesy “Nyame,” a song urging respect your family and your family’s heritage with some extra help from guest fiddler Casey Driessen.

Guest singer Afel Bocoum appears on the “Tabital Palaaku,” a song about the conflicts between herders and farmers and the ethnic struggles that go along with struggles over land use in the wake of climate change. Miri closes out with an homage to Mr. Kouyate’s mother on the track he named after her called “Yakare.” Ms. Sacko gives voice to Yakare and her 13 children and a life of singing.

Miri is a true treat and all about the big dreams, small pleasures, love, friendship and hardship of Mali.

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The Diverse Background of Jai Uttal


Jai Uttal – Spirit Room: A Retrospective

Jai Uttal – Spirit Room: A Retrospective (Free Spirit/Triloka, 2000)

Jai Uttal is a veteran musician and singer-songwriter from New York, and this album reflects his diverse background in blues, R&B, and later on Baul and Indian classical (studying sarod under Ustad Ali Akbar Khan).

The instrumentation is superb, and well showcased on the 12 tracks of this 10-year retrospective. Our picks include the dreamy piece Corner, the finger-snapping Footprints, reggae-influenced Hara Shiva Shankara, rock-driven Malkouns, jazzy devotional piece Govinda, and Petition to Ram. Check out this prolific artist’s other albums like Dial M for Mantra, Shiva Station, Pranayama, Music for Yoga, Yoga Chant and Mondo Rama.

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The Better Musical Paradises of Javier Ruibal

Javier Ruibal – “Paraísos mejores” (Nuba Records, 2018)

Javier Ruibal, one of Spain’s finest musical poets delivers another gem titled Paraísos mejores (better paradises). Ruibal has a highly expressive, captivating vocal style that matches his poetic lyrics perfectly. His lyrics talk about love, flamenco dreams, recent historical events, the hopes of African migrants, Egypt travels, imaginary places and the aspiration of humanity despite war mongering. All songs are in Spanish except one in which Ruibal sings in Arabic.

Musically, Javier Ruibal, takes you on a fantastic musical trip around the globe, incorporating flamenco, Cuban music, Middle Eastern music, bolero, contemporary jazz, rock, and chamber classical music.

The album was produced by Javier’s son, percussionist Javi (Javier Jr.) Ruibal. Paraísos mejores includes two high profile singers, Dominican star Juan Luis Guerra and the great Brazilian artist Chico Cesar.

The line-up includes Javier Ruibal on vocals and guitar together with some of Spain’s best players: Jose Recacha on electric and acoustic guitars, ud, bouzouki, Portuguese guitar, electric bass and keyboards; Javi Ruibal on drums and percussion; Manuel Machado on trumpet; Federico Lechner on piano; Victor Merlo on acoustic bass; Diego Villegas on saxophone, flute, clarinet and harmonica; Frederick Hogue on trombone; Daniel Escortell on bass; Jorge Arribas on accordion; Diego Galaz on violin, mandolin and saw; Laure Gaudrom on viola; José Inés Guerrero on cello;  Faiçal Kourrich on violin and viola; and José Carlos Roca on cello.

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Anita Aysola’s Captivating Wide Range of Influences

Anita Aysola – Beyond Our Dream

Anita Aysola – Beyond Our Dreams (Anita Aysola, 2018)

Singer-songwriter and pianist Anita Aysola, an artist born in India and raised in the USA, bridges contemporary American jazz, blues, R&B and rock with Indian influences on her album
Beyond Our Dream.

Aysola uses English-language vocals in a style similar to Norah Jones as well as fascinating Indian classical vocal forms. The instrumentation and arrangements combine rock instrumentation with beautiful bansuri flute, tabla and Indian-style violin.

The album was produced by Chamrat Chakrabarty. The lineup includes Anita Aysola on vocals, Fender Rhodes and piano; John Clark on guitar and backing vocals; Sameer Gupta on drums, tabla and backing vocals; Arun Ramamurthy on violin; Rashaan Carter on bass; Jay Ghani on bansuri; Chamrat Chakrabarty on keyboards; Konrad Payne on bass; and Shane Allessio on acoustic bass.

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Dotschy Reinhardt’s Jazz and Sinti Heritage


Dotschy Reinhardt – Chaplin’s Secret

Dotschy Reinhardt – Chaplin’s Secret (Galileo Music GMC079, 2018)

Chaplin’s Secret is the new album by German jazz singer and book author Dotschy Reinhardt. As her last name indicates, Dotschy is part of the same extended Reinhardt family that also included legendary Gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt.

Dotschy Reinhardt is a Sinti, a group of formerly nomadic Central European people also known as gypsies. Although she is a jazz singer who sings primarily in English, she celebrates her heritage with a song in Romani, the language of many of the Sinti and Roma. She also sings in Portuguese.

Chaplin’s Secret includes swinging gypsy jazz, American-style jazz, and bossa nova accompanied by a fabulous band of extraordinary, versatile instrumentalists.

The title of the album makes reference to famed actor and comedian Charlie Chaplin. In 1991 Charlie Chaplin’s daughter, Victoria found a letter that her father had kept in his bedside drawer. The author of the letter, Jack Hill, informed the actor about his genuine birthplace, which was not London, as Chaplin stated in his autobiography, but Black Patch in Smethwick. At the time of Chaplin’s birth, Black Patch was a large tree-lined meadow on which Gypsy (Roma) people and entertainers camped with their caravans. It is said that he was born in 1889 as the son of an artist who had toured through England with her father’s circus, finally ending up in London.

The lineup on Chaplin’s Secret includes Roberto Badoglio on E-Bass; Max Hartmann on double bass; Alexey Krupksky on guitar; Dotschy Reinhardt on vocals; Christian von der Goltz on piano; Alexey Wagner on guitar; and Daniel Weltinger on violin. Guest musician: Nir Sabag.

Dotschy Reinhardt’s discography includes Sprinkled Eyes (2006), Suni (2008) and Pani Sindhu (2012).

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Bandadriatica’s Musical Odyssey


Bandadriatica – Odissea (Finisterre, 2018)

Bandadriatica, the mighty brass band from southern Italy explores various musical regions beyond its native southern Italy on Odissea (Odyssey).

The succulent, explosive mix incorporates the mesmerizing percussive tambourine sounds and accordion of Salento (southern Italy), high energy Balkan brass, rock guitars inspired by Saharan desert blues, and trance-like North African Gnawa rhythms plus fascinating spoken word.

The ensemble includes Claudio Prima on organetto (accordion), vocals; Emanuele Coluccia on alto, tenor and soprano saxophone; Andrea Perrone on trumpet; Vincenzo Grasso on clarinet; Gaetano Carrozzo on trombone; Morris Pellizzari on electric guitar, mandolin and saz; Giuseppe Spedicato on electric bass and tuba; and Ovidio Venturoso on drums.

Guests: Giovanni Chirico on baritone saxophone; Antonio Castrignano on vocals and tamburello; Redi Hasa on cello; Simone Giorgino on spoken word; Roberto Chiga on tamburello; Lioness Afreeka, Federico Buttazzo, Alessandra Ferrari, Aldo Orlando and Maria Scogna on backing vocals.

Previous recordings include Contagio ‎(Finisterre, 2007), Maremoto (2009), Casa (2012), Arriva La Banda! (2012) and Babilonia ‎(Finisterre, 2015).

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Magela Herrera, Rising Latin Jazz Flutist

Magela Herrera – Explicaciones

Magela Herrera – Explicaciones (Brontosaurus, 2019)

Explicaciones (Explanations) is the new solo album from Cuban composer and skilled flute player Magela Herrera. Currently based in Miami, Magela Herrera performs music rooted in American jazz and Cuban rhythms and melodies. She has a charming, highly expressive style as a flutist.

The musicians on Explicaciones are some of Miami’s finest jazz players: Tal Cohen on piano; Nestor del Prado on bass; Dion Keith Kerr on bass; Hilario Bell on drums; David Chiverton on drums; Greg Diamond on guitar; Jean Caze on trumpet; and Philbert Armenteros on batá drums.

Although most of the tracks are instrumentals highlighting the flute, Magela also sings on a couple of tracks. She includes the Spanish language romantic classic “Bésame Mucho” (“Kiss me a lot”), written in 1940 by Mexican songwriter Consuelo Velázquez and popularized by Los Panchos.

Explicaciones is a delightfully-crafted album showcasing the talent of a young composer and superb instrumentalist.

Buy the CD from CD Baby or the digital download from Amazon.

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