Thursday, March 31, 2011

CD Review: Nadav Remez from Israel

So Far

Israeli-born, Boston-based Nadav Remez is a talented guitarist that finds perfection in the jazzy classics of a Depression-era lounge club. The opener, "So Far," is a two-and-a-half minute instrumental piece with all the smooth jazz fixings. The instrumental repertoire consists of alto sax, clarinet, tenor sax, trumpet, piano, rhodes, organ, bass, and drums. "Pinchas" is an eight-and-a-half minute song with smooth jazz leanings and breezy percussion leading the set. Nine tracks run about an hour in length. Only one song, "Lecha Dodi," was not written or arranged by Nadav Remez. "From Above" is a swayback to the past with nostalgic percussion and horns. Think of the big band era meeting smooth jazz somewhere in a hip New York jazz club today. So Far does not contain any vocal songs or noticeable Klezmer influences. The quieter "Susu" is an ideal end to the album with subtle guitar nuances and little in the way of additional instrumentation. All in all, So Far so good...very good! ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, March 24, 2011

CD Review: Hadar Noiberg's 'Journey Back Home'

Journey Back Home

Hadar Noiberg performs on two flutes with two other musicians, Omer Avital on double bass and oud, and Ziv Ravitz on drums and assorted percussion. The trio, formed by Hadar, who is also a composer and musical arranger from New York City, performs instrumental compositions inspired by the Middle East. In particular, an Israeli cultural element dictates most of the musical directions. As a performer in other NY-area groups, Hadar's academic studies of the flute provide the listener with an educated sound of fluidity and a dose of subliminal austerity. Throughout the album, Hadar weaves in and out of world music, jazz, avant-garde, and classical idoms. Never straying too far from her Israeli roots, Hadar knows how to evoke moods and emotions through music. For instance, the flute flutterings on "Residue of a Broken Heart" eschew a sense of yearning backed by other instruments played with more of a Chinese sensibility. Nine total tracks are available to enlighten, inspire, and enthrall any listener without a doubt. Fans of instrumental, Middle Eastern, or Jewish folk music will admire the soothing sounds of Hadar Noiberg. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Botown's 'The Soul of Bollywood'

The Soul of Bollywood

U.K.-based Ajay Srivastava formed Botown in response to the classic Bollywood music taking the world by storm. The Soul of Bollywood contains many hits by SD Burman, Himesh Reshammiya, RD Burman, AR Rahman, Kalyanji Anadji, and Laxmikant Pyarelal. The spy-thriller vibe of "Jhalak" and "Om Shanti Om," Cambodian-sound of "Dum Maro Dum," bass-ladened "Haule Haule," reggae vibe of "Chura Liya," pop ballad of "Kal Ho Na Ho," and the funky soul song, "Chaiyya Chaiyya" stand out as some of the best tracks. For a retro-revisit, The Soul of Bollywood stirs up some classic tracks with a vibe straight out of the 1970's. The Hindi songs incorporate funk, reggae, soul, jazz, blues, rock, and electronic elements. For a funkadelic ride down memory lane located somewhere in Calcutta, then Botown is the right band for you. A stellar release! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Imaz' Elia's 'Myrmika Fabuletti'

Myrmika Fabuletti

Imaz' Elia is an interesting group representing a variety of musical traditions spanning the Mediterranean, Balkans, Andalusia, Transylvania, and adjacent areas. The songs are sung in Spanish, Serbian, French, and Yiddish with English translations in the liner notes. Interestingly, the album's title is taken from a fictitious country of Myrmika Fabuletti where nomadic cultures are mixed together into a giant cauldron assembled by alchemists. In effect, the diverse musical sounds Imaz' Elia incorporates stems from this nomadic model. Nearly fifty minutes of music and twelve tracks showcase the scary, inspiring, and melodic music of various regions. The group is comprised of Laetitia David, Aurelien Le Bihan, Julien Cretin, Raphael Bayle, Mourad Baitiche, Florent Hermet, and Rabah Hamrene. A variety of edgy percussion, sweet accordion, guitar, saz, bouzouki, mandolin, and sound effects create a fascinating musical experience. Whether it is called gypsy, Klezmer, Balkan, folk, pop, or avant-garde, Myrmika Fabuletti is a transcultural experience worthy of a listen. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Melanie Guay's 'Palais D'Helium'

Palais D'Helium

The Quebec-based Melanie Guay is a singer of sweet, melodic French-lyric songs. The lilting tunes are evocative of many French singers that came before her, including Patricia Kaas, Francoise Hardy, and Carla Bruni. A more modern-focused folk and pop set of songs makes Palais D'Helium (Palace of Helium) float high above her nearest competition. The catchy "De Quoi Je Suis Faite," the laid-back "Les Promesses" and "Palais D'Helium," the breathy "Pepite D'Ame," and the crystalline opener "Les Grandes Esperances" showcase her vocal talents in slightly different settings. The sweet vocals and modern arrangements propel Melanie into another realm of talent previously unattained by similar artists. All of the music is created with synths, piano, bass, guitars, clarinet, violin, percussion, and beatbox. Palais D'Helium is a lyrical playground of musical fun that is sure to enthrall all who love Quebecoise music or French pop music. The music rising to the occasion with every note and, as an added bonus, the cover photo is particularly eye-catching, too. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Joseph Tawadros' 'The Hour of Separation'

The Hour of Separation

Joesph Tawadros is an Egyptian-born oud player and a resident of Australia with James Tawadros on req and bendir. His latest album is number seven in a handful of recordings with an improvisational, jazz, or world beat background. Joseph is joined by three other musicians from America, including John Abercrombie on electric guitar, John Patitucci on double bass, and Jack Dejohnette on drums. The fifteen, instrumental tracks are fairly reserved and not too energetic; except for Track 4. However, the album is nearly seventy-eight minutes long, which provides the listener with a satsifying musical experience. The crystalline sounds of the oud are a perfect match for the drums, guitar, and assorted percussion. Fans of Middle Eastern, North African, jazz, percussion, and instrumental world music should find The Hour of Separation a worthy addition to your music library. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Forty Thieves Orkestar's 'Last Band Standing'

Last Band Standing

The sounds of Eastern Europe are alive and well in the repertoire of the U.K.-based Forty Thieves Orkestar. In fact, Gypsy, Balkan brass, Klezmer, and a bit of street-beat music infiltrate the songs on Last Band Standing. The traditional instrumentation and modern beats provide an infectious and danceable sound throughout. The accordion, oud, violin, trumpet, tuba, cymbalom, clarinet, melodica, and electronic effects provide most of the musical accompaniment. The instrumental "Giza Stomp" is a classic tune of a definite Klezmer influence, as well as "Thaj Lel Europa" and "Belboeli," or the slightly jazz-focused "Uskudar". Whatever the influence or style, the Forty Thieves Orkestar is a transcontinental journey with enough melodies and rhythms to keep one dancing long into the morning hours. A total of ten tracks at just over forty-minutes provides a relatively short introduction to the music, but it is diverse and varied enough to keep one's attention long after the music stops. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Kouame Sereba & Erik Wollo's 'Bako'

Kouame Sereba & Erik Wollo

The Norwegian-based, Ivory Coast singer, Kouame Sereba, continues his unique ambient afro-beat style of music on Bako (The Travel). The electronic accompaniment and guitar work from Erik Wollo adds a more contemporary feel to the album as a whole. Keep in mind the music is not trance or techno. It is not rock either. The contemporary sound is more indicative of Sa Dingding's Harmony (Wrasse, 2010) or Huun Huur Tu's Eternal (Electrofone Music, 2009). The modern beat of "Ha Yah" and "Kilimanjaro 2" reflect some of the Real World label productions in scope. Even though the musicians are based in Norway, the music of Norway is virtually nonexistent on this mostly African music release. Of course, it still contains the electronic blurbs, catchy melodies, and percussion familiar to most Europeans, North Americans, and Africans. The more solemn "Koloyni" and "Mameri" represent a softer side. Nevertheless, Bako is an excellent journey of modern instrumentation and traditional vocals that bridge together continents and one another with amazing results. ~ Matthew Forss

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

CD Review: Ireland's Lazik

Far Fetched

The Ireland-based group, Lazik, is a production of traditional music tunes from Ireland, Scandinavia, Balkan, and Gypsy areas of Europe. The album opens with a lively Bulgarian tune, "Gankino Horo." Vocalist Tatiana Sabinska lends her voice to another Bulgarian tune, "Katerino Mome." A number of other instrumental tunes from Sweden, Norway, Romania, Greece, and France round out the album. "Waves of Rush" is a striking fiddle tune from Romania. The Yiddish-tinged "Di Zaposhkelekh" is a vocal and instrumental love-song inspired by a door handle. The giddy "Opa Cupa" is a Hungarian or Balkan tune with vocals. The mostly instrumental nature of the songs provides a fun and inventive opportunity to dance with a partner or go solo. The group's primary repertoire comes from the Irish guitar skills of Barry O'Donovan; the French flute maestro and vocalist, Christelle Moisan; Stella Rodrigues' Dutch violin playing, and Dylan Gully as the founder of Lazik and Txutxukan. Far Fetched is an album with all of the instrumental and vocal fixings one can relish. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Canada's Dala 'Everyone Is Someone'

Everyone Is Someone
Campus Music/Lenz Entertainment

The Ontario-based folk duo, Dala, is taking the charts by storm with their award-winning album, Everyone Is Someone. The contempoary folk group is similar in sound to Shawn Colvin, Susan Aglukark, and Sarah MacLachlan. In fact, "Lonely Girl" is uniquely Dala, but it seems like a slightly stripped-down folk song ("Building A Mystery" comes to mind) in the vein of Sarah MacLachlan. The mix of folk instrumentation and pop tunes contains a weighty amount of instruments, including keyboards, mandolin, guitar, piano, drums, bass, harp, cello, banjo, strings, cow bell, hand claps, and something called icicle keyboards. The songs are tender, sweet, and catchy. The English-lyric songs describe love, happiness, Northern culture, and poignant stories backed by superb vocal harmonies and folksy instrumentation with a flair for neo-folk leanings on "Northern Lights," "Younger," and "Levi Blues." Dala is dala-lightful in every sense of the word. ~ Matthew Forss

Friday, March 11, 2011

CD Review: New Zealand's Fat Freddys Drop 'Live At Roundhouse London'

Live At Roundhouse London
The Drop

With the last show on the 2008 Tour, the New Zealand dub-electronic-urban-dance-groove band, Fat Freddys Drop, presents a glorious set of soulful, jazzy, and bluesy dance music from the London venue. The set of songs runs for more than 75 minutes in length with no intermission or interruptions. The groovy-reggae-dub of "Pull The Catch" and "The Raft" is infectious beyond belief, along with the opener, "The Camel." Only six songs are included, but again, the show is well over an hour in length and there is alot of instrumental grooving going on. A smattering of applause can be heard on some of the songs. A variety of electronic sound effects and trip hop or house musical effects provide a good dash of modernization. This is not your traditional Maori music. This is music for those craving good dance beats and killer grooves. Perhaps fans of dub-step, afro-beat, jazz-beat, soul-beat, and other similar styles would find Fat Freddys Drop a must-have. The lyrics are in English. ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, March 10, 2011

CD Review: Baba ZuLa's 'Gecekondu'


The Turkish beat group features traditional stringed instruments and percussion to form a kind of Turk-beat music that is not like techno or dance. Essentially, the music contains a modern tone with traditional instruments. Gecekondu is translated as "slums." Vocalists Murat Ertel and Elena Hristova add some Turkish flair to the repertoire without compromising the pace or beat of the music. There are some similarities to Latin American cumbia music, psychedelia, and North African guitar blues. Gecekondu's wide-reaching comparisons are necessary given the fact the music draws upon several influences directly or indirectly. The music beats are similar to India's bhangra on a lighter scale. However, fusion is a small part of Gecekondu. "Temptation" incorporates English lyrics with a Middle Eastern and Indian melody. Track 10 is a more refined and modernized track with a dub-beat and all the crazy, Turkish percussion one can muster. In fact, it almost borders on Balkan madness! Anyway, Baba ZuLa is a talented group that puts Turkey on the map. Dance your way to Ankara today! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Jadid Ensemble's 'Sigh of The Moor'

Sigh of The Moor
Whirling Eye Studios

From the opening call to prayer and the Arab-Flamenco rhythms infused with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern melodies, it does not take long to realize the impressive debut by Glenn Sharp and his Jadid Ensemble. Based in the UK, the Jadid Ensemble is composed of Glenn on guitars, cumbus, saz, bass, piano, vocals, assorted percussion, and oud; Olivia Moore on violin; Paul Cheneour on flutes, ney, mizmar; Adam Warne on riq, darbuka, and frame drums. The flamenco guitar style on "Ilm" is as meditative as it is transportive. The percussion and violin accompaniment provide an Andalusian experience. The sub-two-minute "Vandal" has a haunting melody with mizmar, percussion, and the sounds of a busy bazaar or marketplace. The equally short "The Storyteller" is an interlude out of Central Asia. Haunting, choral-type vocals are fitting on the final tune, "Ascension." The rest of the songs do not include any singing. In effect, the music is transcendent, otherworldly, and intuitive. For fans of Andalusian, Mediterranean, Central Asian, flamenco, world fusion, or Middle Eastern music in general, will find the Jadid Ensemble more than a little entertaining. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Charmaine Clamor's 'Something Good'

Something Good

As a follow-up to My Harana: A Filipino Serenade (Freeham, 2008), Charmaine Clamor is back once again with a stellar set of music. However, this time, she sheds the more traditional elements. Instead, Charmaine takes on pop-jazz-soul standards with the uppity "Feelin' Stevie," the laid-back "Every Single Moment," the Latin-focused "The Farther You Go," and the bluesy "Sweet Spot". Unlike previous albums, Something Good is mostly sung in English, because after-all, Charmaine is a Filipino-American. Her voice seemed to mature nicely for the music, whether it is called blues, pop, Latin, roots, or folk. Names aside, the music speaks for itself. Interestingly, the entire CD packaging is 100% recyclable. Thankfully, it should not come to that for listeners. Charmaine is right about one thing...and it is definitely 'something good.' ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Charmaine Clamor's 'My Harana: A Filipino Serenade'

My Harana: A Filipino Serenade

The heartfelt melodies and love songs known as harana were frequently performed by men through the 1950's to win affection for young women by playing a guitar outside the window of a potential female suitor. Now, Charmaine Clamor tackles these songs and highlights the musical culture of the Philippines in the process. Twelve songs are included in eight different languages and dialects, including English, Tagalog, Kapampangan, Ilocano, Ilonggo, Pangasinan, Bisaya, and Bicolano. The sultry vocals and passionate guitar, bandurria, laud, kutiyapi, bass, kulintang, and percussion provide an almost Latin American, flamenco, or even Hawaiian sound. Charmaine's addictive voice carries each song with simplistic pleasure. The songs are light and crisp with a lot of room to breath. If you like folk or jazz vocals in multiple languages, then you will love Charmaine. English lyrics are provided with native languages and dialects. Let her seduce you today! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Shane Endsley and The Music Band's 'Then The Other'

Shane Endsley and The Music Band
Then The Other
Low Electrical Records
The composer and trumpeter, Shane Endsley, is backed with a three-piece band playing improvisational jazz idoms. Shane is joined by Craig Taborn on piano; Matt Brewer on bass; and Ted Poor on drums. The quartet creates rousing pieces of music for the jazz club, lounge, Friday evenings of unwinding, and other necessary occasions and locations. The piano shimmers with light as the accompanying instruments fill in various voids and rise to the occasion from time to time with seemingly little effort. On the surface, Then The Other may appear to be another jazz album, but that may be misleading and an unwarranted observation. The title alone suggests something else may be involved. In this case, it is the classic tunes of the big band era, or the Brazilian jazz clubs, or the invention of another influence or person. Whatever the case might be, Then The Other is a pivotal, instrumental jazz release from the Brooklyn-based quartet. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Orla Fallon's 'My Land'

My Land

With the approach of St. Patrick's Day, all things tend to point to the luck of the Irish and everything green. However, Ireland's Orla Fallon should be a part of your Irish celebration this year, as she releases a new album, My Land, in close conjunction with a 50-city tour and PBS program in most markets. Orla still plays the harp and sings on the new album, but she is joined by a larger gospel group on "Down To The River To Pray" and special guests on two live tracks with The Dubliners on "Spanish Lady" and "I'll Tell Me Ma" with Damien Dempsey. Two songs with slightly different renditions, "Distant Shore" and "My Land," are also included on her 2009 release, Distant Shore. Still, Orla's voice is as sweet and pleasant as ever on "Mo Ghile Mear," "Ni Na La," and "Both Sides Now." A mix of English and Irish lyrics provide a sense normalcy amidst a sea of diasporic displacement from the Irish land. Followers of Celtic Woman will clamor to pick up My Land. Green is the new gold! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Katja Cruz Y Los Aires' 'Mi Corazon'

Mi Corazon

The Argentinian, Katja Cruz, opens up her heart on Mi Corazon (My Heart) with eight original compositions and three tunes attributed to Argentinians Astor Piazzolla, Anibal Troilo, and a Chilean, Violeta Parra. All of the compositions are inspired by the Candomble musical tradition of orishas, or saints. Taken from an Afro-Latin perspective, Katja's songs are Brazilian, Argentinian, Chilean, Portuguese, and inherently Latin-American. The tender vocals, sweeping percussion, and jazzy melodies are timeless and unforgettable. As a vocalist, Katja captures your attention from the first few stanzas on any song. "No se que pasa" is a breezy little tune with light percussion, aerophones, and a splash of rhythmic color from south of the border. Mi Corazon is heartfelt, honest, cheery, relaxing, and serene. Anyone with an interest in Afro-Latin, Argentinian, South American, Candomble, or tango music should acquire Katja's latest release while you still can. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Mariana Ramos' 'Suavidanca'


The Senegalese-born and Cape Verdean resident, Mariana Ramos, sings about life, love, and society on her fourth and latest album, Suavidanca. Of course, Mariana possesses a suave, vocal quality that is evidenced on anything she sings. The subtle tropical, Latin, African, and European musical influences are evidenced by her musical guests, including Benin's Angelique Kidjo on "Nzinga Mbandi" and another Cape Verdean, Jorge Humberto on "Discunfiado." The faster rhythms of "Beleza" is sure to heat up any cold night. Mariana sings in languages that are influenced by Portuguese, Creole, and French. The musical styles native to Cape Verde include coladeira, batucu, funana, morna, and mazurca, with other sounds borrowed from Latin America and Afro-Latin variaitons. There are quieter moments, as in "Discunfiado" and "Irmon," but that does not make them forgettable. As expected there are some comparisons to Cesaria Evora, but they are mainly instrumental and not vocal. The instrumentation is fuller than most Cape Verdean recordings and this one is no exception. If you are seeking sun, songs, and some relaxation, then Suavidanca is a perfect Spring Break getaway...all year-round! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Parker Ainsworth 'Parker Loves You'


The classic folk crooner and SoCal resident, Parker Ainsworth, is a guitarist with a big heart and a big soul. The guitar, percussion, and piano, is more folk-based than blues on this five-song release. From the opening "Awake" to the final "Higher Up," it doesn't take long to draw vocal comparisons to the UK's David Gray and Australia's Xavier Rudd with the instrumental folk sensibilities of the earlier work of Shawn Colvin and the jazz-tinged pop of Sara Bareilles. "We Just Forgot" is an emotive ballad with smart lyrics and a sparkling piano melody with an equally entrancing rhythm. Parker Loves You is poignantly, albeit appropriately titled, because it is an infectious and golden album of intelligent folk tunes without reliance on today's electronic accompaniments, dance beats, or redundant hip hop beats. Furthermore, every song on this album is radio-friendly. Parker knows how to compose memorable songs that might resemble anything by Shawn Colvin, Xavier Rudd, David Gray, and other similar artists. Buy it today. Parker will love you for it! ~ Matthew Forss

Sunday, March 6, 2011

CD Review: David Gilden's 'Ancestral Voices'

Ancestral Voices
Gilden's Music

Ancestral Voices is David Gilden's 1990 reissue of West African and Indian world fusion songs. As a producer, composer, and musician, David's instrument of choice is the kora, along with all of the electronic arrangments, piano and gongs. Despite the twenty-year lapse, Ancestral Voices remains timeless...almost futuristic. The electronic accompaniments are not abusive; rather they are subtle, precise, and produced with utmost care and direction. David is joined by a handful of talented musicians, including the great Bansuri flute master, Steve Gorn, and others on fretless bass, tamboura, tablas, shaker, shakers, congas, talking drums, and bones...yes, bones. The contemplative music is relaxing, enjoyable, and at times, awe-inspiring. The mix of electronic washes, ambient noises, ethnic percussion, and kora sounds make Ancestral Voices a pivotal recording in North American kora music. Not one track is weak. Furthermore, the music is entirely void of vocals, which allow the instrumental accompaniment to shine through. Over 67-minutes of music rounds out the listening experience. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Abdoulaye Traore & Mohamed Diaby's 'Debademba'


The France-based duo of Burkina Faso-native and guitarist Abdoulaye Traore with Ivory Coast-singer Mohamed Diaby present Debademba (Big Family) as an astounding release of African blues, fusion, Andalusian rhythms, and Afro-Latin influences. The duo is joined by other singers, including Awa and Fatou Diawarra. The fusion-rhythms of "Agnakamina" seems to include some slight South Asian moods, while the fast percussion and fluid flutes on "Ma cherie" display the virtuosity of the performers. The cheery, blues-driven "Toulamanga" and "Loundotemena" evoke the spirit of Ali Farka Toure and other names in West African guitar music. "Kiefali (Guerrier)" is a classic, folksy and bluesy kind of song perfect for listening to on a road trip in a Land Rover from point A to point B. The final song, "Thomas Sankara", is a salsa-type tune named after the former revolutionary and president of Burkina Faso of the same name. Though mostly instrumentally-driven, Debademba is still vocally strong and an enjoyable listening experience. Fans of Afro-Latin music, salsa, guitar, blues, folk, fusion, and Afro-Franco projects should include Traore & Diaby in their music library. ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, March 3, 2011

CD Review: Ana Moura's 'Coliseu'


The popularization of the fado musical genre from Portugal has been fostered by an intense desire to reacquaint oneself with Portuguese music from around the world and the global prevalence of past and present fadistas, including Amalia Rodrigues, Mariza, Katia Guerreiro, Ramana Vieira, and Ana Moura. A native of Portugal, Ana performs a live set of songs recorded in two of Portugal's famed venues: Coliseu dos Recreios and Coliseu do Porto. The fifteen songs were composed by Jorge Fernando, Custodio Castelo, Antonio Laranjeira, Toze Brito, and others. The mournful and serene songs are nicely accompanied by Portuguese guitar, acoustic guitar, and acoustic bass guitar and interspersed with applause. The Portuguese vocals float effortlessy through the air and dance around with class, sass, but in no way crass. The young singer's mature voice is well-trained and award-winning. A 22-page liner booklet includes Portuguese and English translations. ~ Matthew Forss