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Juju

In Trance

(Real World)

Review [29.Jan.2013]
Juju
In Trance


British electric-guitar maestro Justin Adams teams up with Gambian ritti master Juldeh Camara for this blistering Afro-blues-rock rave-up. Opening track “Nightwalk” is all scratchy riffs, swirling ritti (a kind of west African fiddle) and blazing rhythms, but follow-up tune “Waide Nayde” is even better: a five-minute molten grungefest of burbling, gloriously distorted riffs supporting the swirl of Camara’s voice-like fiddle. East-West fusions have been done before, but rarely as convincingly as this. Technically, this album was released in 2012, but didn’t cross my desk till 2013, so here is: my 2013 album of the year. David Maine



 

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Joseph Kabasele

Le Grand Kallé, His Life, His Music: Joseph Kabasele and the Creation of Modern Congolese Music

(Stern’s)

Joseph Kabasele
Le Grand Kallé, His Life, His Music: Joseph Kabasele and the Creation of Modern Congolese Music


During the 1960s and early ‘70s, the hybrid style known as Congolese rumba was the hottest thing in Central and East Africa, and its most popular exponent was the singer, songwriter ,and bandleader Joseph Kabasele, aka Le Grand Kallé. Although it’s an overstatement to call Kabasele the creator of the style, he played a leading role in fusing Congolese folk music and Cuban dance music. For fans of Congolese rumba, and African music aficionados in general, Le Grand Kallé, His Life, His Music: Joseph Kabasele and the Creation of Modern Congolese Music is a must-have. The two-disc, nearly 40-track set, like all the recent re-releases of classic African music from Stern’s, has been expertly compiled and packaged with care. It includes a 100-page booklet by Ken Braun, a historian of Congolese music, and his commentary on the selections is astute about the music itself and its sociopolitical context. (The compilation includes the hit, “Independance Cha Cha”, which celebrated the Congo’s gaining of independence from Belgium in 1960.) The first disc, which covers Kabasele’s output from 1951 to 1962, is stronger, featuring most of Kabasele’s best material. The second, spanning 1964 to 1970, has some dull patches, but there are high points, too, like the 1968 hit “BB69”. Kabasele’s marvelous tenor voice, as well as the electric guitar work by Dr. Nico and Papa Noel, make even the less memorable tracks worth hearing. George de Stefano


 

Antonio Loureiro


is jazz as an effervescence of ideas, jazz with the tropicalismo hunger for different sources of inspiration: rolling piano, men singing falsetto, indie-pop melody, the indigenous speech of Tupi-Guarani. It opens with a song dedicated to water and I would argue that water—softly irresistible, flowing here and there, bubbling, splattering, swallowing land—is the secret language of the entire disc. Every track is light with that supernatural-seeming samba lightness that never precludes serious thought: tight dance of the syncopated feathers. His transitions sound so natural and easy that I sit there thinking, “With a background in Brazilian music a person could do anything.” Deanne Sole


 

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The Pedrito Martinez Group

The Pedrito Martinez Group

(Motéma Music)

The Pedrito Martinez Group
The Pedrito Martinez Group


It’s not like Pedro Pablo “Pedrito” Martinez has been idle since he arrived in New York from Cuba in 2000. The 40-year-old percussionist, singer, and bandleader has performed or recorded with some stellar musicians—salsa and Latin jazz eminences Eddie Palmieri, Paquito D’Rivera, Chico O’Farrill, Bebo Valdez and Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and jazz artists Joe Lovano, Stefon Harris, Cassandra Wilson, and Brian Lynch. He also was a founding member of one of New York’s most popular Latin bands, Yerba Buena, recording two albums with them. But it wasn’t until this year that he released his first album under his own name, or rather, that of his band. The maxim that good things are worth waiting for definitely applies in this case. Martinez’s debut as a leader is a sizzling blend of classic Cuban styles, jazz, and funk. The band, comprising percussionist Jhair Sala, bassist Alvaro Benavides, and keyboard player and singer Araicne Trujillo, has become a top-flight ensemble from playing live over the past five years, including their regular weekly gig at Guantanamera Restaurant in Manhattan. Martinez has said that his challenge was to capture in the studio the heat the band generated in its shows. He’s succeeded admirably. Songs the band often plays live, like “Que Palo” and “La Luna” more than survived the translation from stage to studio, and the covers—Robert Johnson’s “Traveling Riverside Blues” and the Jackson Five’s “I’ll Be There”—have been successfully Afro-Cubanized. High-profile jazzmen Wynton Marsalis, John Scofield, and Steve Gadd (who produced the album with Martinez) make guest appearances, but while they’re not exactly superfluous, Martinez and the band are all you really need. George de Stefano


 

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Lala Njava

Malagasy Blues Song

(Riverboat/World Music Network)

Review [2.Dec.2013]
Lala Njava
Malagasy Blues Song


Lala Njava’s voice isn’t what you’d call polished, but it’s evocative as hell, and this album makes terrific use of it through its ten tracks. From the opening of the elegiac “Soa Gnanay” through the loping, hypnotic title track to the final strains of the sweetly lulling “Mosera”, Njava croons, whispers, exhorts, and snarls her way through a range of moods, ably backed by a posse of skilled musicians. The instrumentation is familiar to western ears—guitars, bass, drums—but it’s Njava’s voice that occupies the spotlight and glues the disparate moods together. With wider recognition finally coming to other African women like Rokia Traore and Khaira Arby, perhaps it’s not too much to hope that Njava will get some much-merited attention of her own in 2014. David Maine


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