Category Archives: CD Reviews

New Fiddle Colors in Irish Traditional Music

Martin Hayes and Brooklyn Rider – The Butterfly (In A Circle Records, 2019)

The Butterfly brings together five extraordinary masters of bowed instruments, Irish fiddler Martin Hayes (The Gloaming) and American contemporary chamber music ensemble Brooklyn Rider.

In this collaboration, the five musicians recreate Irish traditional music tunes (plus two original pieces) by giving them a modern twist, incorporating contemporary classical and folk music elements, creating a rich tapestry of interlaced fiddle wonders, exquisite arrangements and intuitive interplay.

The lineup on The Butterfly includes Martin Hayes, Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen on violin; Nicholas Cords on viola; and Michael Nicolas on cello.

Martin Hayes and Brooklyn Rider – The Butterfly

The Butterfly is a deeply gratifying album featuring impeccable examples of contemporary acoustic craftsmanship.

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Itamar Erez’s Jazz and World Music Conversations

Itamar Erez – Mi Alegri

Itamar Erez – Mi Alegria (Itamar Erez, 2019)

Israeli multi-instrumentalist and composer Itamar Erez is currently based in Canada. On his new album Mi Alegria, Erez put together an ensemble with some of the finest jazz and world music artists in Vancouver.

Mi Alegria (my joy in Spanish) combines exquisitely-crafted contemporary jazz intertwined with Brazilian, Flamenco, Middle Eastern and various additional global music influences.

Although the guitar is Itamar’s primary musical instrument, he plays the piano as well. Throughout Mi Alegria, Erez engages in captivating, spirited guitar and piano interplay with the clarinet, percussion and a diverse set of other instruments.

“I’ve been playing and composing on the piano for years, but this album is the first to feature my piano playing so prominently,” Erez clarifies, “It’s an interesting process to write on piano and shift to guitar, or vice versa. You need to find creative solutions to solve difficulties.”

The band on Mi Alegria includes Itamar Erez on guitar and piano; Francois Houle on clarinet; Hamin Honari on percussion; James Meger on bass; Kevin Romain on drums; Ilan Salem on flute; Dani Benedikt  on percussion; and Celso Machado on percussion.

Mi Alegria is dedicated to Itamar’s daughter, Mia.

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Eliane Elias Celebrates the Different Sides of Love

Eliane Elias – Love Stories

Eliane Elias – Love Stories (Concord Jazz, 2019)

Brazilian pianist, vocalist and composer focuses on songs of affection on her new album, Love Stories. This time, she sings entirely in English and is joined by a lush orchestra. Love Stories include three original songs and seven classics from bossa nova’s heyday, bringing in songs made popular by Frank Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Love Stories is delicately-crafted and easy to listen, very appealing to fans of smooth jazz with a Brazilian flavor. Eliane’s piano and voice engages in fascinating interplay with the orchestra. She says: “From the first note that’s chosen, every color I create in the arrangements, the modulations, the choice of keys, the small group arranging, the possibilities for orchestra – it’s as deep into my personal taste as it can go…because I’m envisioning the arrangement; deciding how to convey the song and perform it with the band, and being mindful of the future orchestrations all at once.”

The musicians involved in Love Stories include Marcus Texiera on guitar; Edu Ribeiro, Rafael Barata and Celso Almeida on drums; co-producer Marc Johnson on bass; co-producer Steve Rodby on bass; and arranger Rob Mathes.

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The Passionate Mariachis from El Norte

Just in time National Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States, two outstanding mariachi albums are now available: “De Ayer para Siempre” from Mariachi Los Camperos and “Esencia” from Mariachi Herencia de México.

Mariachi los Camoeros – De Ayer para Siempre

Mariachi Los Camperos, founded over 50 years ago, is a renowned Los Angeles-based mariachi band led by Jesús “Chuy” Guzmán. “De Ayer para Siempre” (Smithsonian Folkways, 2019) is the group’s 10th album.

“De Ayer para Siempre” is exquisitely orchestrated and features a meticulous selection of Mexican regional styles, including rancheras, son jarocho, huapango, pasodoble and ballads, reflecting the mestizaje culture of Mexico, a mix of Spanish and indigenous musical influences. There are also nods to other Hispanic nations in the Americas, such as a joropo, a genre from Colombia and Venezuela.

The lineup on the album includes Jesus “Chuy” Guzmán on violin, mellophone and vocals; Sergio Alonso on harp; Raúl Cuellar on violin and vocals; Alfredo Gómez on violin and vocals; Julio Hernández on violin and vocals; Mario Hernández on vihuela; Juan Jiménez on guitarrón; Ernesto Lázaro on vocals; Roberto López on violin; Fernando Ortiz on trumpet; Jonathan Palomar on guitar; Richard Ramos on trumpet and vocals; and Juan Rodríguez on violin and vocals.

As with all Smithsonian Folkways albums, the physical version includes a detailed 40-page booklet with photos and liner notes in English and Spanish.

Mariachi Herencia de México is a newer mariachi ensemble, based in Chicago, featuring young female and male Mexican American performers, 13-18 years old. This rising mariachi act celebrates Mexico’s Golden Age of Film (Epoca de oro) on their third recording, “Esencia” (Mariachi Heritage Foundation, 2019). The album features arrangements by famed Mexican composer Rigoberto Alfaro. “Esencia” was recorded in Chicago, mixed in Los Angeles, and mastered in Madrid.

Mariachi Herencia de México – Esencia

These new arrangements are not only more difficult but, I want to say, more prestigious,” says Marco Villela, 16, who sings and plays trumpet on the album. “With these arrangements, we’re trying to capture the essence of the traditional song but with a newer sound, giving it that special kick, with that modern feel.”

Although “Esencia” includes many classic rancheras and boleros, the album also includes contemporary songs such as “Los Mandados,” a song dedicated to the undocumented. It narrates the adventures of a man who brags about repetitively crossing the border illegally, no matter how many times La Migra (or Border Patrol) sends him back.

Mariachi Herencia de México includes Bryana Martínez on violin and vocals; Carlos Rojas on guitarrón; Itzel Bustos on violin and vocals; Arturo Garza on violin and vocals; Melanie Juárez on guitar; Isaias López on Violin and vocals; Karla De La Cerda on violin and vocals; Marco A. Villela on trumpet; Alejandra Aldaco on violin and vocals; Ignacio Paredes Jr. on harp; Zullydiana Gómez on violin and vocals; Noe Uribe Jr. on guitar; Dafne Ocampo on violin; Eric Nieto on vihuela; Adilenne Gutiérrez on violin and vocals; and Juan Diego Rojas on guitar.

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Tinariwen’s Alluring Nomadic Album

Tinariwen – Amadjar (ANTI-Records, 2019)

The most famous of the Tuareg desert blues bands, Tinariwen, made their new album during a road trip from southern Morocco to Nuakchot in Mauritania. The project started after Tinariwen’s October 2018 performance at the Taragalte Festival of nomadic cultures in the Moroccan Sahara. Tinariwen traveled with their French production team, who drove an old camper van that has been turned into a provisional mobile studio.

The road trip along Africa’s Atlantic coast took about 12 days. The Malian band and crew crossed southern Morocco, the Western Sahara and ended up in Nuakchott, the capital of Mauritania. Throughout the journey, the caravan stopped to set up camp. Tinariwen’s musicians made preparations for the recording and rehearsed their songs.

Tinariwen – Amadjar

Once in Nuakchott, Tinariwen spent two weeks recording with celebrated Mauritanian musician Noura Mint Seymali and her guitarist husband, Jeiche Ould Chigaly. The recordings were made under a large tent, with a small number of live takes, devoid of headphones or effects.

Amadjar showcases Tinariwen’s characteristic style: slow paced, dreamy songs featuring creative bluesy electric guitar lines and call and response vocals, enriched with violin, Noura Mint Seymali’s traditional ardin harp, handclapping rhythms and percussion.

Amadjar is a well-constructed, deeply mesmerizing album by one of the finest bands out of Mali.

More about Tinariwen.

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Enhanced New Edition of Lucibela’s Laço Umbilical

Lucibela – Laço Umbilical Bonus Version (Lusafrica, 2019)

Lucibela, one of the great new voices of Cape Verde, entered the world music scene in 2018 with her debut album Laço Umbilical. Now, in 2019, Lisbon-based Lucibela has re-released a new version of the album titled Laço Umbilical Bonus Version. This second edition includes a new song titled “Ti Jon Poca” and a new cover.

Additionally, two of the original tracks are now duets. “Dona Ana” is now a collaboration with the celebrated Angolan singer Bonga, and “Sai Fora” (formerly known as “Mal Amadu” on the first version of the album) incorporates North African raï influences contributed by Algerian artist Sofiane Saidi.

Lucibela – Laço Umbilical Bonus Version

Lucibela’s style is deeply inspired by the late Cesaria Evora.  She is gifted with a captivating vocal technique and focuses on two genres, morna and coladera. The album includes lyrics by Cape Verde’s best songwriters and songs delicately -arranged by guitar and cavaquinho maestro Toy Vieira.

The musicians on Laço Umbilical (Bonus Version include Lucibela on vocals; Toy Vieira on: acoustic guitar and cavaquinho; Bonga on vocals; Sofiane Saidi on vocals; Vaiss on acoustic guitar; Stephan Almeida on cavaquinho; Djim Job on bass; Nir Paris and Miroca Paris on percussion; Totinho on soprano saxophone; Mario Marta and Marise Vasconcelhos on backing vocals; Maryll Abbas on accordion; Julián Corrales on violin; Thierry Fanfant on bass; Hernani Almeida on semi acoustic guitar; and Daniel Rodriguez on cello.

Buy Laço Umbilical Bonus Version

Lucibela will be touring the United States in September 2019:

September 12, 2019, Minneapolis, MN, Dakota

September 13, 2019, Madison, WI, Madison World Music Festival

September 14, 2019, Chicago, IL, Chicago Wold Music Festival

September 15, 2019, Boston, MA, Global Arts Live at City Winery

September 17, 2019, New York, NY, Merkin Concert Hall – World Music Institute

September 19, 2019, Silver City, NM, Western New Mexico University

September 20, 2019, Albuquerque, NM, Globalquerque Festival

September 21, 2019, Phoenix, AZ, Musical Instrument Museum Theater

September 22, 2019, San Diego, CA, Center for World Music

September 23, 2019, Seattle, WA, The Royal Room

September 26, 2019, Los Angeles, CA, The Miracle Theater

September 27, 2019, Palo Alto, CA, Stanford University – Bing Studio

September 28, 2019, Berkeley, CA, Freight & Salvage Festival

September 29, 2019, Washington, DC, Kennedy Center

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Spontaneous, Free-Flowing Cuban Guitar Sessions

Ortega, Silveira and Elizarde – Espontáneo: The Abdala Session

Ortega, Silveira and Elizarde – Espontáneo: The Abdala Sessions (Ansonica Records, 2018)

Guitarist and producer Dayron Ortega Guzmán invited his Cuban colleagues Maykel Elizarde Ruano (tres guitar) and Eduardo Silveira (percussion) to a jam session at Abdala Studios in Havana. As the title indicates, the music recorded in Espontáneo: The Abdala Sessions is a set of spontaneous jam sessions captured in the studio

Dayron started by playing melodies. Maykel and Eduardo listened and responded with embellishments. The music is a sampling of the best of Cuban music, bringing together Afro-Cuban rhythms, rural traditions and Spanish influenced guitars.

Espontáneo: The Abdala Session delivers a beautifully-crafted of Cuban guitar pieces.

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Ebo Taylor’s Lost Nigeria Sessions Released for the First Time

Ebo Taylor – Palaver

Ebo Taylor – Palaver (Tabansi Records/ BBE Music, 2019)

Palaver contains five tracks recorded in Nigeria in 1980 by famed Ghanaian guitarist and composer Ebo Taylor. The material consists of irresistible songs that mix highlife, Afrobeat, funk and jazz. The EP showcases Taylor’s characteristic electric guitar style, along with a superb set of musicians, comprising George Amissah. Mat Hammond, George Kennedy and George Abunuah.

Ghanaian guitarist Ebo Taylor was one of the leading highlife musicians in the 1950s with ensembles such as Broadway Dance Band and Stargazers and continued during the following decades making remarkable highlife and Afrobeat recordings in Ghana and Nigeria.

This video sums up the historical context of the recordings:

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Elegantly Modern Accordion Rooted in Portuguese Tradition

Danças Ocultas – Dentro desse mar (Galileo Music, 2018)

Portuguese accordion quartet Danças Ocultas recorded Dentro desse mar at Casa do Mato Studios in Rio de Janeiro, produced by celebrated cellist and producer Jaques Morelenbaum. Danças Ocultas is a group of talented accordion players who perform exquisite contemporary musical pieces rooted in tradition and classical music. It is a nuanced sound, creating a mix of laid back ambience and melody rather than flashy virtuosity.

Dentro desse mar is a set of charming, elegant songs and instrumentals featuring various musical guests.  Jaques Morelenbaum brought in Brazilian percussionists, highly expressive cavaquinho, several other instrumentalists and guest vocalists from Brazil and Portugal, who provided finely-crafted chemistry around the accordions. Morelebaum also contributed his own enchanting cello work.

Danças Ocultas – Dentro desse mar

The line-up includes Artur Fernandes on diatonic accordion; Francisco Miguel on diatonic accordion; Filipe Cal on diatonic accordion; and Filipe Ricardo on diatonic accordion; David Feldman on pinao; Marcos Suzano on percussion; Brazilian singer Zelia Duncan; Jaques Morelenbaum on cello; Rogério Caetano on 7-string guitar; Luis Barcelos on mandolin and cavaquinho; Marcelo Costa on percussion; Portuguese fado singer Carminho; Robertinho Silva on percussion; Dora Morelenbaum on vocals; Tiago Abrantes on cvlarinet; and Paulo Braga on percussion.

Dentro desse mar features a captivating amalgam of Portuguese and Brazilian influences under a modern prism.

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Sunujazz, a Delightful Encounter Between West Africa and West


Lamine Cissokho – Sunujazz

Lamine Cissokho – Sunujazz (Sewa Music, 2019)

Senegalese kora player Lamine Cissokho mixes traditional sounds from West Africa with jazz and contemporary influences on Sunujazz.

Standout pieces include “Contre Vent,” an exquisite piece where the kora and electric guitar dance around each other over a layer of calabass; the irresistible rootsy “L’Amour” featuring lead vocals by Lamine Cissokho; the joyous interplay of Ousmane Ba’s guitar and Lamine’s kora on “Kaira;” and the lively “Sosolasso” a superb song highlighting the kora, electric guitar and call and response vocals.

Lamine Cissokho is a Mandinka jali (musician and storyteller, also known as griot) from Casamance in southern Senegal. He is based in Sweden.

The lineup includes Lamine Cissokho on kora and lead vocals; Alain Oyono on saxophone; Tobias Grim on guitar; Per-Olof Rylander on piano; Ousmane Ba on fula flute; Romi Christian Bonaban on bass; Ibou Calebasse on calabash; Diougouna Sissokho and Saga Björkling on backing vocals.

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