Tuesday, May 31, 2011

CD Review: Electric Cowbell Records Presents - Bongolia

Various Artists

101 Things To Do In Bongolia

The music on Electric Cowbell's latest release is a compilation of music from records featuring the best in funky, psychedelic, groovy, and danceable music from Africa, the Caribbean, and the USA. A range of artists and groups grace the tracks on this album, including Sierra Leone's Sahr Ngaujah, Superhuman Happiness, Los Riberenos, Bio Ritmo, Debo Band, CSC Funk Band, Amazing Ghost, Spanglish Fly, Greg Ginn, and Talibam!. Somewhat instrumental and vocal, the music is certainly littered with funky, electronic, and innovative danceability that increases with each listen. The music is not particularly traditional, because there is an urban and contemporary sensibility with most of the songs. Think of downtempo, trip hop, funk, rock, dance, pop, and electronica genres merged together. It is not as chaotic as it may seem. Perhaps Bongolia is a country unto itself. If this is the music of the country, then someone send me there immediately. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Jeff Fairbanks' Project Hansori - Mulberry Street

Mulberry Street

The multicultural roots of Jeff Fairbanks' jazz project incorporates the elements of Korean, Chinese, and American Big Band styles. Moreover, Jeff was trained in classical music with experience in African-American gospel and Latin salsa genres, too. Though, the latter genres are not represented on this album. The striking four-part "Mulberry Street" medley of New York's Chinatown region contains sub-titles of "Entrance and Funeral March," "Scaring Away Evil Spirits with Joyful Sounds," "Releasing Grief," and "The Send-off." Named for a street in Chinatown, the songs reflect the Buddhist and Western funerary musical styles all on a palette of big band and Asian tones. Each song is instrumental and reflects the mid-twentieth century Spaghetti Western and other American film soundtracks of the period. Interestingly, the album is rather cohesive and fluid in its musical approach and execution. There are ecstatic moments, as well as quieter jams with short interjections of trumpet, sax, or trombone. Notably, 'hansori' means 'one sound' in Korean. In closing, Mulberry Street can be summed up in one word: magnificent! ~ Matthew Forss

Monday, May 30, 2011

CD Review: Anne Mette Iversen Quartet - Milo Songs

Milo Songs

The soothing and imaginative sounds of the instrumental Anne Mette Iversen Quartet expects to turn heads with a reflective album of tunes inspired by the melodies of Anne Mette Iversen's boy named Milo. Anne plays the bass, while John Ellis plays tenor sax and clarinet, and Danny Grissett plays piano. Otis Brown III plays drums & cymbals for a splash of percussion. Milo Songs is an ode to Anne's son, which reflects the playful, yet slightly mature compositions. This is perfect music for lounging, reading, or dining. Seven tracks and nearly 50 minutes later, the music still resounds with intrigue and awe. Though, vocals are not present. However, Milo Songs was meant to be instrumental from the time Anne's boy came up with creative melodies at the tender young age of two. For a great listening journey, Milo Songs delivers with pinpoint accuracy and an infectious charisma. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Cerys Matthews' 'Explorer'


Rainbow City

The Welsh singer of Catatonia fame graces her voice on the thirteen magnificent tracks of music spanning a few continents. Specifically, Cerys incorporates a little Spanish, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, and American sensibilities, styles, and genres. Cerys' unique voice flirts with the tenderness of Leigh Nash with the bluesy grittiness of Trish Murphy and the downtempo moods of Geike Arnaert. As the title suggest, Explorer is an album of historic songs with a contemporary flair and a host of eclectic instruments spanning generations and countries. For instance, most Welsh albums do not incorporate the kalimba, oud, or Chinese temple blocks in their repertoire. This is where Cerys astonishes the listener with a varied collection of songs that seem to sound more like blues on "How Can You Say So Little When You Talk So Much" and "Avalanche." While "Galleon" suggests a more contemporary composition littered with Hooverphonic cues. The playful "Connemara Cradle Song" is a tune even adults can enjoy. Cerys' whispy voice easily morphs into a blues or folk groove without over-powering the instruments. A perfect album for the 'explorer' in your family! ~ Matthew Forss

Friday, May 6, 2011

CD Review: Laura Ros' 'Del Aire'

Del Aire


Argentina's Laura Ros is a talented singer and songwriter with a flamboyant lyrical flair and spicy instrumental arrangements. Laura's voice is a mix of Ceu and Lila Downs put together. As a South American singer, Laura incorporates a variety of contemporary influences from singers in Brazil, Latin America, and her homeland of Argentina. Thirteen compositions with a mix of folk and modern arrangements provide an accessible and fun recording. Fans of Argentinian music will be disappointed if they are seeking an album of accordion or bandoneon music. However, the accordion or bandoneon does make an appearance on a few tracks. 'Sueno Infinito' is an especially catchy track with a folksy-rock beat. As a whole, Del Aire is an album with a classic mix of strings, folk music, modern pop, jazz, and South American percussion in all the right proportions to drive anyone wild with happiness. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: See-I's Reggae (Fun)k


The Washington, D.C.-based duo, See-I, is the latest reggae-funk project to come out of the city. The roving rhythms and Caribbean beats eschew a Jamaican charisma with the soul of Mother Africa. The thirteen cuts are pure forms of musical excellence and gritty songwriting talents of Arthur "Rootz" Steele and Archie "Zeebo" Steele. The funk, soul, rock, reggae, and dub concoctions of spine-tingling and soul-stirring music is nothing short of miraculous. The edgy vocals possess an inner energy of earthiness and raw power. However, the music is not disorganized, loud, or of poor taste. The social-activist nature of reggae music is a characteristic that is close to the hearts of most musicians and listeners. Though, See-I is not preachy, in your face, or over the top. If you are seeking good reggae beats with intelligent lyrics and fascinating musical arrangements, then 'see' See-I for what they are. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Finland's Kaivama


Independent Release

Finland's long line of fiddlers and fiddling history is not solely confined within the country's borders. In fact, the U.S. contains sizable Finnish populations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Moreover, Kaivama is based out of Minneapolis, MN. The duo of Sara Pajunen and Jonathan Rundman provide the musical accompaniment on violin, piano, percussive keys, guitar, harmonium, electric piano, banjo, organ, mandolin, and voice. The fine Finnish fiddling is a nothing more than half a step away from Frigg and the Gypsy stylings of Taraf de Haidouks. Of course, there are the more solemn, classic tunes, such as 'Roros' and 'Chicago Waltz.' More energetic folk-guitar-fiddle tunes such as 'Sulo' and 'Schottische 150' represent a modern move into the world of Finnish music. Fans of JPP, Sattuma, Troka, Frigg, and instrumental folk music will love Kaivama's debut release and welcome it with open strings...I mean arms. ~ Matthew Forss

2-CD Review: Joaquin Joe Claussell's 'Hammock House: Africa Caribe'

Various Artists

Hammock House: Africa Caribe [2-CD]

Producer Joaquin "Joe" Claussell's latest mix is the new double-CD release of Hammock House: Africa Caribe. The title suggests a Latin and African presence, which is more than a casual happenstance. In fact, Joaquin reinvigorates early music reels from the Fania Records archives. As a Puerto Rican, Joaquin has surrounded himself with the 'nuyorican' identity and lifestyle from the beginning. The Puerto Rican, Caribbean, Latin jazz, and salsa music from the 1970's is presented on both discs. However, the first disc contains thirty tracks that play continuously and include the music of Ray Barretto, Mental Remedy, Celia Cruz, Lou Perez, Eddie Palmieri, Jaidene "Jai" Veda, Mongo Santamaria, Willie Colon, Ruben Blades, and Ismael Miranda. There are also five tracks devoted to pre-track chatter amounting to no more twenty-four seconds in all. Importantly, the music is not trance or electronic as with other remixes. Instead, the original musical integrity is preserved with a Latin backdrop and danceable forefront. The second disc contains nine tracks by Eddie Palmieri, Mongo Santamaria, Ismael Miranda, Ray Barretto, Celia Cruz, Jai Veda, and Lou Perez. The smooth and sultry sounds of both discs encapsulate a wide-breadth of musical experiences and rhythms in our contemporary age. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Patricia Talem's 'Olhos'



The sensual voice of Brazil's Patricia Talem exceeds every expectation. The voice, in combination with the jazzy, piano and percussion-driven rhythms and melodies, create a sense of delectable leisure. Nine songs, mostly in Portuguese, reflect a Latin jazz palette of South American colors and flavors. Patricia is joined by Jane Monheit on 'Nascente' and Flavio Venturini on 'Club da Esquina.' Judging by the photogenic colored photos of Patricia in the liner notes, one can easily see how the album's title (trans. "eyes") came about. Of course, it could be equally titled "Voz" for 'voice.' The gentle rhythms and pleasant voice stand out as a strong Brazilian jazz release with piano, percussion, and strings. The music is relatively laid-back in scope. Anyone interested in Brazilian jazz, female vocalists, Latin music, and piano music should find Olhos 'eye'-opening. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: The Brazilian-Jazz Sounds of Nilson Matta & Roni Ben-Hur's 'Mojave'

Nilson Matta & Roni Ben-Hur w/Victor Lewis & Cafe


The acclaimed quartet of Nilson Matta, Roni Ben-Hur, Victor Lewis, and Cafe, display a fine set of international musical talents with two Americans (one of Israeli origin) and two Brazilians on-board. Mojave includes Roni on guitar, Nilson on bass, Victor on drums, and Cafe on percussion. The instrumental, Brazilian jazz tunes are a mix of original compositions and music by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Pixinguinha, Baden Powell, and Burt Bacharach. The cool-jazz feel of the compositions reflect the relaxed nature of watching the sunset on the beach with palm trees swaying gently in the breeze. While that is a dream for most and a reality for some, the primary importance of Mojave is it's global, yet accessible appeal. The instrumental ambiance incorporates a bit of jazz, samba, bebop, and Latin elements without the big bands and orchestras, which gives it a more intimate and welcoming sound. Anyone with an interest in Brazilian jazz music will find Mojave scintillatingly addictive. ~ Matthew Forss