Category Archives: CD Reviews

SugaTree, Celtic Crossover from Australia

SugaTree – This Time

SugaTree – This Time (Two Tails, 2017)

Australian band SugaTree combines Celtic music, folk rock, bluegrass and pop on This Time. The songs have pop hooks, great vocals harmonies with nicely crafted arrangements. The Celtic aspect appears in the form of penny whistle and fiddle. The mandolin adds a strong bluegrass flavor.

The trio includes Natalie Parker on vocals and penny whistle; Ryan Pentland on vocals, guitar, harmonica and kick drum; and producer and multi-instrumentalist Yanni Dellaportas on vocals, acoustic guitar, mandolin, piano, and bass.

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Paulo Tato Marinho’s Masterful Portuguese Bagpipes

Paulo Tato Marinho – Gaitas de Fole em Portugal

Paulo Tato Marinho – Gaitas de Fole em Portugal (Fundacao GDA, 2018)

Portuguese multi-instrumentalist Paulo Tato Marinho dedicates Gaitas de Fole em Portugal (Bagpipe music from Portugal) to the bagpipes of Western Europe. He plays various types of Iberian bagpipes along with Irish, Scottish and Breton pipes.

Gaitas de Fole em Portugal contains a mix of modern recreations of traditional and medieval Portuguese tunes, dances and songs along with original compositions. In addition to bagpipes, Paulo Tato Marinho also plays a wide range of wind instruments, percussion and string instruments such as cavaquinho and viola braguesa.

Gaita de fole is the name used in Portuguese to refer to a set of wind and reed musical instruments that have in common the ability to emit continuous sound through a flexible air bag. Its variety is enormous in morphological and musical characteristics, corresponding to different geographical and historical origins.

Available from Tradisom

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Futuristic Cuban and Brazilian Sounds Rooted in Yoruban Traditions

Afrosideral – El Olimpo de los Orishas (Wonderwheel Recordings, 2019)

El Olimpo De Los Orishas is an irresistible global electronica album by Cuban musician Kumar Sublevao-Beat also known as Afrosideral. A former rapper, Kumar embraced world music when he moved to Spain. El Olimpo de los Orishas is a superb tribute to Yoruban music and deities that are present in some parts of Cuba and Brazil.

Afrosideral – El Olimpo de los Orishas

Kumar combines cutting edge electronic beats and samples; Afro-Cuban chants; Cuban and Brazilian rhythms rooted in African traditions; electric guitars and bass; and more.

El Olimpo De Los Orishas includes an impressive cast of Cuban and Brazilian musicians: Ariel Brínguez, Martín Meléndez, Jurandir Santana, Dreiser Durruthy, Sexto Sentido, Doctor Matanza and Arema Arega.

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Ajay Srivastav: Indian Folk Music Meets Delta Blues

Ajay Srivastav – Karmic Blues (Scion Records, 2019)

British composer, singer-songwriter and guitarist Ajay Srivastav combines American Delta blues resonator and slide guitar with Indian musical forms and instruments, including tabla and tanpura. On Karmic Blues, he also uses string ensembles and bass that provide a rich tapestry of sounds, incorporating dreamy classical and Indian elements.

Karmic Blues is a fascinating amalgamation of blues and Indian folk traditions.

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Accessible Nueva Trova from Alex Cuba

Alex Cuba – Sublime

Alex Cuba – Sublime (Caracol Records, 2019)

Canada-based Cuban singer-songwriter is known for his pop-leaning style, including catchy hooks commonly used in Spanish-language commercial productions. There are undeniable Cuban elements as well, such as Afro-Cuban percussion, Spanish-influenced guitars, intimate nueva trova poetic lyrics and song delivery. Additionally, Alex uses rich jazz harmonies.

Highlights include a bolero duo with Buena Vista Social Club star Omara Portuondo and a love song with nueva trova pioneer Pablo Milanés.

Sublime is an acoustic effort.  “Acoustic music just goes with my soul,” explains Alex. “I’m not against synths and electronics, but I’m not interested in just making a big noise and getting people to dance. I wanted the songs on this album to have some breathing space. I suggest things, leave things at a subliminal level. Every listen will tell you something else.”

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Garden Quartet‘s Contemporary Iranian-Australian Fusion

Garden Quartet – Garden Quarrtet

Garden Quartet – Garden Quartet (Bleemo Music, 2019)

Australian audiences were reported to be “spellbound throughout” recent performances by Garden Quartet’s performance of music from their debut self-titled album. Ancient Persian language and melodies are embroidered with threads of trans-global influence – old and new. While the result is born of improvisation, it delivers a complete soundscape, Earthy yet ethereal. Delicate and vibrant.

Since relocating from Iran to Melbourne, front woman Gelareh Pour has ventured beyond her classical training. Collaborating with experimental musicians, her adventurous spirit found a platform to soar. Pour has dabbled in genres from theatrical to Persian post-Rock and metal.

Formed in 2016, Garden Quartet comprises two Iranian-born artists with two from Melbourne. On kamancheh (4-stringed Persian spiked fiddle) and qeychak (bowed lute), Pour plays in musical conversation with partner Bryan O’Dwyer (drums), Mike Gallichio (electric guitar, bass and piano) and Arman Habibi (santur and vocals). The engine room of guitar and percussion provide solid ground for the rhythm of the santur (hammer dulcimer) and the melodic drone of Kamancheh.

Original compositions accompany emotive poetry. In Iran, women singers cannot perform publically as soloists. In a modern diasporic setting, Pour’s Farsi vocal interpretations scale unexpected heights. On ‘I Am An Ocean’, she sings the words of Nozar Parang: Why stay in dirt with no hope?  On ‘Anxiety Wars’ (lyrics by Houshang Ebtehaj: The small cage door is open but it’s a shame, The wings of my voice are broken.

As an ethnomusicologist, Pour’s instrumental practice preserves a classical tradition. As an interpreter of words, she expresses her own need to be heard on a welcoming platform.

The conversations between instruments and voice follow the improvisational tradition of her musical roots. The interplay of learned structuring and innovation captivates. Joining Pour and O’Dwyer on production, Myles Mumford shares their passion and experience over an array of musical styles.

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Masterful Mehmet Polat Outside His Harmonic Comfort Zone

Mehmet Polat and Embracing Colours – Quantum Leap

Mehmet Polat and Embracing Colours – Quantum Leap (Aftab Records, 2019)

Ud virtuoso and composer Mehmet Polat presents a new band and direction on his latest album, Quantum Leap. The Embracing Colours ensemble represents a jazzier side of his modal compositions. Although Polat spent recent years inspired by the fertile musical traditions of the Middle East, Africa, India, Europe and the Balkans, this new venture explores focuses on jazz.

Mehmet Polat describes the musicians in his new band: “Joan Terol Amigo is a genius on drums, Hendrik Muller is a master of grooves on bass and Bart Lelivelt is a brilliant accordion player. The ud is a traditional instrument played in all Arabic countries, West Asia and Eastern Europe, and can be a great connector of cultures.”

Throughout Quantum Leap, the masterful ud dances around the admirable accordion and bass, interweaving tasteful jazz, Balkan, Anatolian and Flamenco elements.

Embracing Colours includes Mehmet Polat on ud, Joan Terol Amigo on drums, Hendrik Muller on bass and Bart Lelivelt on accordion.

Guest musicians: Cigdem Okuyucu on vocals (track 4), Eric Vloeimans on trumpet; Imamyar Hasanov on kamancha; and and Michalis Kouloumis on violin.

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Vitto Meirelles’s Delicious Servings

Vitto Meirelles – Da Hora

Vitto Meirelles – Da Hora (Cooking Vinyl, 2019)

If you have even the slightest affinity for Brazilian music you need a copy of Vitto Meirelles’s Da Hora, out on the Cooking Vinyl label. And, I’m not just saying that because the cover features Mr. Meirelles in the buff with just a guitar. Yes, after years of bitter complaints about CD covers exploiting women’s bodies to boost sales, we can just chalk this up to an About Time Moment. Regardless of the cheesecake photo connotations, Mr. Meirelles has crafted a first rate recording that is a smart, savvy and satiny follow-up to previous recordings Da Fonte and Vem Rei.

Conjuring up an airy and intimate feel on Da Hora, singer, composer and musician Mr. Meirelles enlists percussionists Domenico Lancellotti, Marivaldo Paim, Carlos Sales and Pedro Fonte in addition to his own playing guitar, piano, bass and electric keyboard to weave this silky smooth Brazilian musicscape. Mr. Meirelles’s past work with the like of Gilberto Gil, Salif Keita and Seu Jorge and composing for film and theater serves him well on Da Hora in crafting engaging tracks and moods.

Opening with the “A Fonte Secou” featuring Denis Lavant, listeners are teased with flirty bit of opening accordion before riding the easy, breezy vocals of Mr. Meirelles and some delicious percussion dashed with a bit of cuica.

Lazing his way into “Nada E melhor do Que Voce,” listeners are lulled by backing Brazilian drumming, guitar and keyboards against Mr. Meilleres’s vocals before giving way to sections of just percussion and vocals.

Full of interesting turns of vocal phrasing and percussion, Da Hora transforms what might have been ordinary Brazilian fare into something extraordinary. Equally delicious are servings of “Outro Ceu,” the savvy swinging “Le Cannibale,” “Um Tempo ao Tempo,” the delicately worked “Tudo Era Leve” and the faint vocal backing of easy feeling “O Amor E Tudo.”

Title track “Da Hora” is indeed a standout track, along with “Sou Menina Menino” and the bonus tracks “Tu T’laisses Aller” and “Aguas de Marco.”

Da Hora’s warm intimate feel is dreamy drowsy laze steeped in Brazil, and we all know if Brazilian music is playing then all is right with the world. And hey, there’s a naked man with a guitar on the cover.

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Artist Profiles: Hrdza

Hrdza

Slovak band Hrdza have been making world fusion since the late 1990s. The ensemble is known for its original material rooted in Slovak traditional music, combining east European folk elements with modern musical influences.

Hrdza is a vibrant live act, featuring robust vocals and catchy melodies that engage the audience.

The 2018 album Neskrotený includes 11 original musical pieces predominantly written by the band’s frontman Slavomír Gibarti and 3 adapted very little-known traditional songs with vocals in Slovak, Rusyn and Ukrainian.

Band members in 2018 incldued Slavomír Gibarti on lead vocals, guitar; Susanna Jara on vocals, violin; Dominik Maniak on violin, vocals; Marak Szarvaš on percussion; Pavol Boleš on bass, vocals; and Matej Palidrab on accordion.

Discography:

Muzička (Hrdza, 2002)
Pod božími oknami (Universal Music, 2006)
Hajnajnanyja (Universal Music, 2009)
Hrdzavá osemnástka (Hrdza, 2016)
Neskrotený (Hrdza, 2018)

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The Enthralling Intensity of Michael Cleveland’s Fiddle

Michael Cleveland – Tall Fiddler (Compass Records, 2019)

Fiddler Michael Cleveland is one of the essential instrumentalists in the current bluegrass scene. On his album Tall Fiddler, he treats the listener to as tasty mix of well-constructed traditional and contemporary bluegrass, country and what is known as jamgrass (a mix of bluegrass and improvised acoustic music).

Tall Fiddler features an impressive cast of bluegrass musicians, some of the biggest names, including Del McCoury on vocals; Jerry Douglas on dobro; Tim O’Brien on vocals, banjo and mandolin; Bela Fleck on banjo; Sam Bush on vocals, mandolin and slide mandolin; Tommy Emmanuel on lead guitar; and the Travelin’ McCourys.

Michael Cleveland – Tall Fiddler

Cleveland has won the Fiddle Player of the Year bestowed by the International Bluegrass Music Association. This year, he added two more awards at the recently held 30th Annual IBMA Awards. Cleveland won the Fiddle Player of the Year. In addition, Cleveland and his band, Flamekeeper, were named Instrumental Group of the Year.

In 2019, Cleveland’s remarkable career was celebrated with the release of Flamekeeper: The Michael Cleveland Story, a documentary on his life.

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