Sunday, March 30, 2014

CD Review: Charlie Dennard's 'From Brazil To New Orleans'

Charlie Dennard 
From Brazil To New Orleans

Charlie Dennard takes listeners on a jazz journey through lounge, boogaloo, fusion, and Brazilian music throughout the nine long tracks on the new album. As the title of the album implies, Charlie brings us a mix of jazz-inspired tunes with an homage to Brazilian composers and the multi-cultural powerhouse of southern Louisiana. The instrumental tunes are full of jazzy melodies and rhythms that contain punchy horns, folksy percussion, and contemporary jazz elements. The lounge jazz feel of some of the tracks is permeated with some Brazilian fusion and improvisational elements, which only adds to the enjoyment of the entire album. The piano offers some meditative influences on "Asa Branca" and "Senhorinha." The bluesy side of jazz rears its head on "Valsa Luisiana." The smooth jazz and Afro-funk fusion of "Africa Mae" is stellar. Overall, Charlie releases a great final product, which bridges the gap between Brazil and New Orleans from a musical standpoint. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Ernest Ranglin & Avila's 'Bless Up'

Ernest Ranglin & Avila
Bless Up
Avila Street Records

Jamaican-born guitarist and composer, Ernest Ranglin, has been wowing crowds and countries for decades with his signature style of ska, jazz, mento, reggae, and blues music. The instrumental tunes on Bless Up are very classy and rich with jazzy leanings, ska infusions, and island charisma. The rootsy jazz guitar stylings on "Bless Up" cement Ernest's reputation for indelible recordings and compositions. The rippling guitar and piano melody are backed by a beautiful, laid-back percussion section. The jazzy, reggae-tinged "Joan's Pen" is a heady mixture of classic vs. contemporary that finds an inner balance for everything to work just right. The swaying melody of "Follow On" showcases more diverse talent from Ernest's finger-tips. The sassy piano and horn section adds some pizzazz to the jazzy rhythm and guitar arrangements. There are sixteen tracks in all that span the gamut from jazz, lounge, tropical, roots, reggae, ska, and blues. Bless Up is a step up from other recordings that may be similar, but you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone comparable to the great Ernest Ranglin. He's 81 and still cranking out the tunes. ~ Matthew Forss

Saturday, March 29, 2014

CD Review: She'Koyokh's 'Wild Goats & Unmarried Women'

Wild Goats & Unmarried Women
Riverboat Records/World Music Network

Based in the U.K., She'Koyokh bring us rollicking good fun with brassy instruments, pulsating gypsy rhythms, and klezmer-inspired traditions on their latest release, Wild Goats & Unmarried Women. The album title is as fun as the music, which traverses the Mediterranean, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. The jazzy horns, punchy rhythms, and unmistakable melodies are great for dancing and enjoying what the musical world has to offer. Interestingly, the album's title refers to male goats jumping up and down during mating season to attract female goats, which is similar to dancing movements inspired by the music contained herein. At any rate, She'Koyokh knows how to combine classic klezmer grooves with gypsy sounds and pan-European influences. The music is both vocal and instrumental throughout. Fans of klezmer, gypsy, brass, jazz, and world music should check out She'Koyokh today. Don't delay! ~ Matthew Forss

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

CD Review: Atse Tewodros Project's Self-Titled Release

Atse Tewodros Project
Atse Tewodros Project

Envisioned by singer, writer, and performer, Gabriella Ghermandi, the Atse Tewodros Project is a collaboration between Ethiopian and Italian musicians. The music is steeped in Ethiopian traditional modes and scales with a bit of European jazz. The project is named after a prominent Ethiopian emperor: Atse Tewodros. The jaunty music is jazzy, purely Ethiopian, and rich with great rhythms and melodies. Gabriella lends her vocal talent throughout, while others play the washint, masinqo, kirar, kebero, drums, bass, piano, and assorted percussion. Song lyrics are provided by Gabriella Ghermandi, Aklilu Zewdie, Berhanu Gizaw, and Inish Hailu. There are plenty of likable tracks here, including "Atse Tewodros," "Che Belew," "Be Kibir," and "Tew Belew." A few tracks contain some spoken words. However, the majority of the songs contain sung vocals. Anyone with an interest in innovative and traditional, Ethiopian music, will surely find the Atse Tewodros Project high on the list of must-haves. ~ Matthew Forss

Monday, March 24, 2014

CD Review: Antonio Adolfo's 'Rio, Choro, Jazz...'

Antonio Adolfo
Rio, Choro, Jazz...
AAM Music

The instrumental works of Brazilian pianist and composer, Ernesto Nazareth, are brilliantly showcased on nine of the ten tracks. One track is an original piece named after the album title and cleverly produced and arranged by Brazil's Antonio Adolfo. Antonio is a talented pianist, composer, arranger, and educator regarding everything related to Brazilian jazz and bossa nova. Antonio plays piano on this recording, but he is joined by Claudio Spiewak on guitars, Jorge Helder on double bass, Marcelo Martins on flute and soprano sax, and Rafael Barata/Marcos Suzano on drums/percussion. The compositions attributed to Ernesto were originally conceived in the late 1800's and early 1900's. The four to seven-minute tracks are full of Brazilian glory and exuberance with sweeping piano melodies, jingly percussion, and bossa nova/lounge jazz. The music is breezy and airy--much like a lazy afternoon on the beaches of Rio. At any rate, Antonio knows how to capture the essence of classic music in a contemporary setting. ~ Matthew Forss

Sunday, March 23, 2014

CD Review: Hassan Hakmoun's 'Unity'

Hassan Hakmoun
Healing Records

Based in Brooklyn, NY and born in Morocco, Gnawa musician and sintir player, Hassan Hakmoun, brings us an energetic release steeped in cultural brilliance and trance-inducing beats. The instrumental arrangements of "Balili" are nothing short of a miracle. The opener, "Zidokan," is a gritty, steady beat of a song. The rock elements of "Hamadiyi" showcase a more rock instrumental medley without squealing guitars. However, the instrumentation is rather alternative and grunge-like in a world fusion sort of manner. Anyone familiar with gnawa music will recognize the sintir instrument, but the musical melodies also give it away. This is also the most cohesive album to date. Consequently, the beats are tight, memorable, and full of organic, soul-stirring, trance-inductive qualities that stick with the listener long after the tracks end. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Julie Fowlis' 'Gach sgeul'

Julie Fowlis
Gach sgeul
Machair Records

Scotland's talented Gaelic singer, Julie Fowlis, delivers us a folksy, Gaelic-soaked album of traditional tunes and original songs across eleven tracks. Julie begins the album with a solemn ballad, "A Ghaoil, Leig Dhachaigh Gum Mhathair Mi," which is led by Julie's vocals and string accompaniment. Throughout the album, various instruments take over, including the bouzouki, fiddle, guitar, harmonium, piano accordion, double bass, assorted percussion, cello, flute, uileann pipes, bodhran, whistle, viola, and highland pipes. The jaunty "Danns' A Luidheagan Odhar" is a lively and uppity tune with Julie's stellar vocals taking the charge. The songs are more melodic on this recording than previous releases, which probably makes it more accessible to Gaelic, folk, European, and vocal music fans. Whatever it is, Julie knows how to create beautiful music. Gach sgeul, which means "every story," accurately depicts different stories in song form. Whether it is traditional or contemporary, Julie mesmerizes all who listen. Check it out today! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Faba Loba's 'Senegalesa'

Faba Loba

Faba Loba combines Latin, dance, and African fusion elements for an electro-funky result. The group is comprised of Ibou Ba, Amadou Fall, Lica Cardona, Beston Barnett, and Rafi eL. The electronic music is mixed with kora, percussion, dance, funk, alternative, and world fusion that is highly-entertaining. The music is punctuated with great vocals and instrumental arrangements that are steeped in world musical traditions. There are Congolese guitar rhythms on "Lolambe," while electro-funk elements are showcased on "Latde," "Ire a Dakar," and "Immigration Clandestine." This is a great contemporary recording of Afro-funk, kora folk, and Afro-Latin fusion that seems to combine other elements with each repeated listen. Overall, fans of Senegalese, West African, Afro-Cuban, and Afro-Latin music and percussion will love the sounds of Faba Loba on Senegalesa. ~ Matthew Forss  

CD Review: Sousou & Maher Cissoko's 'Africa Moo Baalu'

Sousou & Maher Cissoko
Africa Moo Baalu
Arc Music

Swedish/Senegalese-couple, Sousou and Maher Cissoko, bring us an inviting recording of pleasurable kora melodies and vocal harmonies steeped in African charm. The kora, guitar, percussion, and vocals mark an energetic and richly-diverse recording that is exciting, catchy, and very fun. The scintillating kora on "Fall" is one of the most beautiful tracks on the album. The fine interplay between Sousou's vocals and guitar with Maher's kora, shaker, and calabash arrangements are splendid. Plus, Sousou's heartfelt vocals lead the musical progression with English lyrics. Sousou and Maher do not incorporate Swedish song elements at all, so African music is at the forefront. Notably, Sousou's ability to play the kora is unique, because women traditionally do not play the kora instrument. Thankfully, Sousou picked up the instrument and joined forces with Maher to create a wonderful album. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Zoumana Tereta's 'Soku Fola: Traditional String Music From Segou, Mali'

Zoumana Tereta
Soku Fola: Traditional String Music From Segou, Mali
Kanaga System Krush

Born in Bamako, Mali, Zoumana Tereta began playing music at age sixteen. Originally mastering the Krinyani stringed instrument native to the Fulani, Zoumana moved on to the soku fiddle and bonfle (Fulani flute). The soku fiddle is the primary instrument highlighted on the new album, Soku Fola... However, Zoumana is joined by other instruments, including the acoustic guitar, bass djeli n'goni, and calabash. The acoustic album is very organic and raw with various vocalizations and instrumental arrangements. The soku fiddle and calabash take the spotlight on "Sorre." Zoumana's husky voice is mature and intriguing. There are liner notes about each song, the instruments, and production notes. Anyone interested in learning more about North African music will especially love the recording from a seasoned veteran. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Euforquestra's 'Fire'


Colorado-based Euforquestra bring us their fourth album, Fire, which infuses a bit of Afro-beat, dub, dance, and electronica wrapped around a funky, jazz-laden foundation. The funkadelic compositions are lively and boast a wealth of instrumental sounds, jazzy rhythms, and great vocals. The high-energy grooves and dance tunes are a world fusion masterpiece without any missteps. There are fourteen tracks in all. The groove-laden, "The Price Is Right," "Fire," and "Road Funk," showcases their ability to adapt to different sounds. However, everything is rooted in funk and smooth dance tunes with a lively keyboard element and deep percussion roots. The jazzy sounds cannot be ignored, too. At any rate, Euforquestra knows how to dance, inspire, and create moving tunes that will live on in our hearts (and feet). ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Solfrid Molland's 'Musikken er mit fedreland'

Solfrid Molland
Musikken er mit fedreland

Norway's Solfrid Molland is a talented vocalist, accordionist, and pianist with an ear for European, Scandinavian, and gypsy rhythms and melodies. Solfrid's new album attempts to highlight the Roma music genre of gypsy with regards to Norway's influence. Solfrid is joined by Gheorgie Vasile, Valentin Vasile, Ion Cantaragiu Rasturnel, Gjermund Silset, Lars Tormod Jenset, and a choir. The heart-felt violin pulls at the heart-strings, but it is very fitting. The gypsy rhythms are rich and moving. The instruments come together in a whirling fashion to create a mesmerizing, instrumental interplay between vocals and heritage. The neo-classical, world fusion, balkan jazz, and gypsy melodies makes the album shine with memorable sounds. Anyone interested in gypsy music and Norwegian music will love Solfrid's Musikken er mit fedreland. ~ Matthew Forss  

CD Review: Tinariwen's 'Emmaar'

Anti Records

North Africa's blues guitar kings are back with another highly-lauded release. Emmaar, which means "the heat on the breeze," is the next installment in Tinariwen's slew of successful albums that attempts to bring a more world rock sound, while still cementing their name in the addictive, swirling, and blues-infused music inherent from their humble beginnings. The reinforcement of the Westernization influences are evidenced by the cover art and liner note poster featuring Tinariwen at a ranch in southern California. This is partly due to the political instability back home in Mali. However, Tinariwen seems at home in any desert; no matter where it is located. There are eleven tracks on this album. There are a lot of repetitious guitar rhythms throughout, but it is broken up by various percussion and vocals. The guitars are organic, gritty, and fuzzy in parts, but the recording quality is still top-notch. Overall, Tinariwen produces yet another fine recording with relatively minor qualms. The lyrics are sung in Tamasheq. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Ani Cordero's 'Recordar: Latin American Songs of Love & Protest'

Ani Cordero
Recordar: Latin American Songs of Love & Protest
La Nana Music

Puerto Rican-born and Brooklyn-based, Ani Cordero sings songs from an era of love and protest with Recordar: Latin American Songs of Love & Protest. The songs are mostly tunes originally conceived in the 1960's, but one song dates from 1930, one from 1942, and still a few others originate from the 1970's. The countries of origin for the songs come from Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Venezuela. Ani lends her vocals, guitar skills, and percussion repertoire to the album, alongside other instruments, such as bass, guitar, accordion, trumpet, flugelhorn, ngoni, trumpet, keyboards, cello, piano, and assorted percussion. The songs are uppity, classic, and catchy. Anyone with an interest in nostalgic songs from Latin America will love Ani's new album. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Andreas Aase's 'Tre'

Andreas Aase
Ora Fonogram

Norway's enlightening musical spirit, Andreas Aase, is a talented, eight-string, guitar bouzouki player. Tre, which means, "three," "wood," or "tree," is an album of a dozen, instrumental songs on solo bouzouki. There are no vocals throughout the album. Nine of the tracks are traditional, Norwegian tunes, while three other tunes are directly attributed to Andreas. The solo music is serene and acoustic without any other additional instruments. The solemn sounds are spritely at times. However, the music is largely folk-based and contemporary instrumental. The music is steeped in the traditions of Norway's craggy fjords and Scandinavia's historical presence throughout European music concoctions. The peaceful music is perfect for relaxing, cafes, bookstores, family gatherings, and other quiet, intimate, and personal occasions. Andreas hits high notes here with a glorious and highly-recommended release. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Calaita's 'Flamenco Son'

Flamenco Son
Riverboat Records/World Music Network

Formed by Chico Pere, Glenn Sharp, and Leo Paredes in Spain, Calaita performs contemporary flamenco music, which draws upon years of traditional flamenco infusions laid-down by previous performers. The original music contains plenty of Latin jazz, rumba, world fusion, and easy-listening folk music elements. Chico Pere and Diana Castro are vocalists, while Chico plays the guitar, as well. Glenn is a guitarist, Leo Paredes is a cajon player, and Matt Nickson is a flutist and sax player. The gentle, sweeping guitar melodies are best when combined with vocals, but the instruments stand strong on their own. There are ten great tracks sung in Spanish. Fans of Latin, Spanish, Caribbean, Cuban, Mexican, and South American folk music traditions will love Flamenco Son. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Ego Vs. Emo's Self-Titled Release

Ego Vs. Emo
Ego Vs. Emo
Egotop Rec

German electro-klezmer music? Yes, indeed. That is the only way to describe Ego Vs. Emo's latest musical offering. The album contains seven long tracks of instrumental glory littered with danceable elements, brassy and bossy klezmer sounds, and swirling melodies and rhythms that are punchy and original. The songs are full of vibrant sax, violin, drums, accordion, guitar, and electronic programming. The songs are titled in German, but consist of various numbers. There are a couple spoken, German vocals on "Hundertdrei," but the majority of music is instrumental. Balkan jazz, klezmer, big band, and psychedelic constructions define the primary theme of Ego Vs. Emo's self-titled album. If the band's name won't draw you in, then the music will. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Imarhan Timbuktu's 'Akal Warled'

Imarhan Timbuktu
Akal Warled
Clermont Music

Formed in 1993, Imarhan Timbuktu is a Tuareg guitar group from Mali and spearheaded by Mohamed Issa Ag Oumar El Ansari. The album contains eight songs about the plight of Tuareg refugees in the camps of Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Algeria, and Niger. Mohamed is a guitarist and vocalist on the album. Mohamed is joined by his brother, Ousmane Ag Oumar El Ansari and backup vocalists, Fadimata Walet Oumar and Zeina Walet. There is also a lively percussion section that fills in the vocals and guitars with a nomadic presence. The music is soul-stirring and in the vein of other North African guitarists, such as Tinariwen, Toumast, and Tartit. The music saunters along with majestic cadences, back-up vocal trills, and lilting guitars performing memorable riffs, licks, and chords. One of the highlights, "Tarha Tazar," possesses a great rhythm and melody. Fans of North African guitar music will love it. Discover your inner nomad today! ~ Matthew Forss

Sunday, March 16, 2014

CD Review: Malawi Mouse Boys' 'Dirt Is Good'

Malawi Mouse Boys
Dirt Is Good
IRL Records

Discovered by Grammy-winning record producer, Ian Brennan (of Tinariwen and Lucinda Williams-fame), the Malawi Mouse Boys perform fifteen upllifting, Christian songs written and sung in the Chichewa language. These are not your typical gospel or worship hymns, as the rudimentary guitar, drums, and assorted instrumentation suggest an earthy, primitive, and organic concoction of tunes. The vocals and instrumentation come through clearly and the melodies are strong. The vocal harmonies on "Kufanana" suggest a Ladysmith Black Mambazo influence without any instrumental accompaniment. A gritty electric guitar on "Zochita Zanu" showcase a bit of grunge elements and a great rhythm. "Ndiyamika" is a peppy little tune with a catchy vocal set and light percussion. Overall, Malawi Mouse Boys make a positive impact to the world music scene in Africa and beyond. Enjoy this one! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Yasmine Hamdan's 'Ya Nass'

Yasmine Hamdan
Ya Nass
Kwaidan Records/Crammed Discs

Lebanese-singer, Yasmine Hamdan, is currently based in Paris, France, but her work extends beyond Europe and the Middle East with her latest release, Ya Nass. The contemporary music contained throughout the album is slightly organic, electronic, and dreamy. This is not dance music or Arabic percussion music, but it does contain some elements of both. Though, Yasmine sticks to a highly modern result with atmospheric electronics and a sweet vocal set-up. The edgy youthfulness of "Shouei," "Samar," and "Deny," represent some laid-back rhythms and melodies that are rather cosmopolitan and adventurous. "Enta Fen, Again" blends some trip-hop, dance motifs with the Arabic vocals. Yasmine tones it down a bit on "Nediya," which provides a more steady almost indifferent beat throughout. At any rate, Ya Nass is an album steeped in Middle Eastern and Arabic sensibilities with contemporary and mature edge that satisfies the soul and moves the body. Buy it today. ~ Matthew Forss

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

CD Review: Juliane Jones' 'The Space Between The Telephone Lines'

Juliane Jones
The Space Between The Telephone Lines

New York-based singer, musician, and ethnomusicologist, Juliane Jones, brings us a unique set of songs that combine the poignancy and intimacy of French pop music with the folk and alternative melodies of Cantonese pop--ripe with Chinese and English vocals throughout. Juliane's pop-centered songs reflect a little Regina Spektor-meets-Faye Wong-and-Gigi Leung arrangement. The quirky, little songs are incredibly catchy from the opener, "Free This Mind," to the ballad-esque, "When You Sleep." It is rare every track on an album is great, but Juliane Jones succeeds without a hitch. "Wooden Horse" echoes with youthful brilliance, as the guitars reverberate and the roots-inspired keyboard combines with sparse drums and smooth bass wrapped around stellar Chinese vocals. "Hey Shadow" is a peppy little ditty that features a ukulele instrument that gives the song is happy feel. It is impossible to feel down when listening to this stuff. By the end of the album, you'll be craving some Chinese food and find yourself praising Juliane in Chinese with phrases such as: Hao ji le! (Excellent) and Wo hen xi huan Juliane! (I like Juliane very much!). Overall, Juliane is a fantastic singer and a fine addition to any world pop collection. ~ Matthew Forss

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

CD Review: Earl Mobile Orquestra's 'Mosaiq'

Earl Mobile Orquestra
Out - O - Space Records

The Germany-based group, Earl Mobile Orquestra, incorporates swinging, Balkan, jazz, and Latin-infused elements throughout the ten tracks for a truly world fusion release of danceable music on Mosaiq. The jazzy sounds are upbeat, very moving, and top-notch. The tracks are wholly instrumental and the band is named after the general manager. The group's repertoire includes a pianist, bassist, drummer, violinist, guitarist, and trumpeter. The punchy sounds are worthy of repeated listens, as each listen brings out something new. The jaunty piano, punchy brass, and swirling melodies are something reminiscent of Balkan jazz, gypsy rhythms, and folk music. This is some of the best music to come out of Germany--especially with a Balkan twist. Get it today! ~ Matthew Forss

Monday, March 10, 2014

CD Review: Jaro Milko & The Cubalkanics' Cigarros Explosives!'

Jaro Milko & The Cubalkanics
Cigarros Explosives!
Asphalt-Tango Records

The Switzerland-based band, Jaro Milko & The Cubalkanics, combine edgy, Latin percussion from Cuba and punchy, horn-driven, gypsy music from the Balkans. The seemingly unlikely combination of instruments and styles comes together to form a unique and fluid blend of world fusion at its finest. The musical syncopation adds a little psychedelic moments, while other sounds take on a neo-ska origin. At any rate, The thirteen tracks are diverse, catchy, and very danceable. The surf-like guitar accompaniments and fluid bass-lines bring out the best in Cuban, Balkan, and gypsy music. Fans of heart-pounding dance riffs, punchy percussion and horns, and Latin rhythms inspired by the 1960's and 70's will especially love its resilient and memorable sound. Cigarros Explosives! is what results when you travel through Hungary, Switzerland, and Cuba--all at the same time! ~ Matthew Forss

Sunday, March 9, 2014

CD Review: Lobi Traore's 'Bwati Kono "In The Club"...Raw Electric Blues From Bamako'

Lobi Traore
Bwati Kono "In The Club"...Raw Electric Blues From Bamako
Kanaga System Krush

Lobi Traore gives us electric blues guitar music straight from Bamako, Mali on his last recording before his death. The album contains nine live tracks with lively, blues guitar music, which is gritty, raw, and organic. The music is jam-worthy and trance-inducing in parts, but Lobi's great guitar calisthenics wins us over. There are traditional instruments that accompany the electric guitar sounds, including djembe and balafon. The spacious beats and inventive delivery make Bwati Kono... one of the best West African recordings in recent memory. Lobi followed in the tradition of Vieux Farka Toure and Zani Diabate. This is not an acoustic guitar album. There are many long instrumentals in between the vocals, which aids in the incredible musicianship for all to enjoy. Lobi will be missed; but his music will live on. Enjoy it today! ~ Matthew Forss

Saturday, March 8, 2014

CD Review: SKRUK's 'Sangen fra Katakombene'

Sangen fra Katakombene

SKRUK is a Norwegian choir that presents a collection of liturgical songs sung in Norwegian. There are also vocals from monks in Turkish monasteries. Per Oddvar Hildre is the conductor for the album, while Siyavush Karimi and Henning Sommerro are talented arrangers. The entire album is vocal without any instrumentation; except for a lone duduk played a couple times. There are twenty spiritual tracks that are heavenly and haunting in the same manner. The spiritual roots of the music originate from the early, primitive church and historical roots with the Syrian Orthodox Church. The alternating male and female vocals are great without any slip-ups. Many of the songs are one to four minutes long, but a couple are five to six minutes. In the end, it doesn't matter how long the songs last. The songs have lasted hundreds of years and will continue to inspire people around the world. Fans of choral and vocal music will rejoice with high marks. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Various Artists' 'Kyzyl-Moscow III'

Various Artists
Kyzyl-Moscow III
Sketis Music

This collection of Tuvan throat-singing music spans twenty tracks and numerous, well-known artists from the region. You will hear the Tuvan Ensemble, Eduard Damdyn, Vadim Oorzhak, Ayas Kuular, Evgeny Saryglar, and Mai-ool Sedip. There are sung melodies, as well a throat singing accompaniment throughout. There are plenty of traditional instruments backing the vocals, including the igil, chanzy, kengirge, dungur, byzaanchi, and doshpuluur. These instruments are various percussion and string accompaniments that accentuate the gritty and soaring vocals. Kyzyl-Moscow is actually a festival held every year in Moscow since 2004. It was organized by George Arat Beletsky--a talented producer, musician, and music promoter. Anyone interested in the effervescent melodies of Tuvan instrumental music and throat-singing styles should check out Kyzyl-Moscow III. Very listenable. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Solvguttene and Kudsi Erguner's 'Pervane'

Solvguttene with Kudsi Erguner
Pervane: Floyet fra Guds Hand

The music of Solvguttene is steeped in the rich, classic melodies and instrumentation of Turkey with some lyrics by Norway's Henrik Wergeland and Hans Nielsen Hauge. The symphonic choral pieces represent a seemingly unlikely connection between Norway's religious choral constructions and Turkey's Sufi poetry. However, the result works with flying colors and effervescent flutes. Flute legend, Kudsi Erguner, vocalist Bora Uymaz, qanun player Serkan Halili, percussionist Hamdi Akatay, pianist Andreas Utnem, and double bass player, Jo Fougner Skaansar, round out the musical repertoire. The music is dreamy, Middle Eastern, angelic, and new age all wrapped into one indelible package. The swirling, dervish rhythms and instrumentation is somewhat Renaissance-themed, but that is just the old nature of the instruments and cross-cultural influences throughout Central Asia and Europe. At any rate, Solvguttene and Kudsi Erguner bring us a lively instrumental and vocal medley of world music with sauntering melodies that are mature and unforgettable. ~ Matthew Forss

Friday, March 7, 2014

CD Review: Seckou Keita's 'Miro'

Seckou Keita
Astar Artes

Senegalese vocalist, kora player, and drummer, Seckou Keita, produces yet another fine album of soothing, West African music steeped in scintillating rhythms, crystal clear sounds, earthy percussion, and glorious vocals. Miro is a ten-track release with songs featuring various languages, including Mandinka, Wolof, Djoola, Malinke, Spanish, and Bambara. "Distance" is a completely instrumental tune with kora melodies at the forefront. Some of the tunes incorporate the calabash, bass, bougarabou, shakers, cajon, balafon, maracas, flute, and violin. The music is instrumentally-rich, but not overbearing by any means. Instead, Seckou knows how to evoke emotive reactions with serene music and styles mainly rooted in West African textures. While the songs are not particularly catchy, they do possess an inherent, addictive quality that is very welcoming and worthy of repeated listens. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Kevin Connor Swingtet's 'Guitar And Tres'

Kevin Connor Swingtet
Guitar And Tres

The Kevin Connor Swingtet brings to life Cuban son and jazz with lush song structures and tropical rhythms performed on guitar, tres, coro, clarinet, bass, drums, percussion, and vocals. The music is upbeat and danceable with a bouncy medley of jazz, gypsy rhythms, and Latin flavors that ignite soulful passion in listeners everywhere. The eleven tracks are varied, but the result is the same: a perfect concoction of vibrant, soul-stirring, Cuban jazz and swing that is anything but boring. Besides Kevin Connor, the Swingtet also incorporates the musicianship of Craig Flory, Jeff Norwood, Joseph Mascorella, Pedro Vargas, and Carlos Cascante. The talented cast shine through with various instruments and compositions. Nothing is amiss here. Fans of Cuban jazz, Cuban son, swing, Latin, and tropical music will find it deeply satisfying. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Ahmed's 'Dhaalu Raa'

Dhaalu Raa
Asasi Records

Ahmed Nasheed hails from The Maldives--a tiny group of islands off the coast of India. Ahmed weaves melodies and rhythms of The Maldives with acoustic and electric guitars, drums, sax, percussion, bass, organ, and euphonium. The contemporary instruments are played right alongside traditional, percussion instruments, such as boduberu and dhandi. The soft and laidback "Dhiyaanaage Huvafen" is poignant and emotive with arrangements akin to Daby Toure of West Africa. The upbeat "Alifuthu" provides lots of log drum rhythms and rockin' guitars in a pop-focused arrangement. "Dhoni" contains great vocal harmonies and sweet guitar sounds in a classic, laidback melody that resembles world folk at its best. "Magumathi" is a jazzy and punchy tune with guitar rhythm rich in roots and fusion. "Manjemen" is another stellar track with soft vocals and light guitar work. The rock guitar elements electrify the notes on "Rasge." Overall, the songs are sweet and melodic with very inviting elements from an ocean community rarely heard in the West--or other places, for that matter. Think of Gurrumul meets Daby Toure. Take a trip to The Maldives and let Ahmed be your musical guide. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Painted Caves' Self-Titled Arab-American Release

Painted Caves
Painted Caves
Primitive Records

Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based, Painted Caves, presents us with an exciting Arab-American release of guitar fusion and world music on their self-titled release. The group is headed by Ali Lubbad on vocals, guitars, trap set, and Arabic percussion, while Mike Kashou plays the oud, bass, percussion, trumpet, piano, and adds background vocals. There are also other musicians on Native American flute, qanun, congas, didgeridoo, and conch shells. Anyone familiar with Wisconsin music will be familiar with the great Paul Cebar on backup vocals. There is an emotive fusion of instruments that come together to form interesting unions that seem to work just fine. The instrumental arrangements possess a little psych/experimental sound indicative of music from the 1970's in parts of the Middle East and South Asia. The tracks are named as cleverly as anything by Dengue Fever, which provides some influence here; especially on "The Behavior Of A Certain Snake," "Paper Tigers," "Man Is Coy Behind Animal Tears," and "Morse Code." Anyone interested in various traditional instruments played in a contemporary setting will love it. Painted Caves emerges as a great work of art! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Pedro Luis Ferrer's 'Final'

Pedro Luis Ferrer
Escondida Records

Cuban-born and based, Pedro Luis Ferrer, is a talented poet, singer, composer, guitarist, and tres player that brings his intimate vocals, swaying melodies, and jazzy effervescence to the forefront on Final. The twelve-track release is a little over half-an-hour in length, but the music lingers much longer. The mature vocals are purely Cuban in origin, but the performance is akin to some of the best Greek singers (i.e. Pashalis Terzis). The Cuban and Latin influences are similar to the Mediterranean elements, which are imbued throughout. The mix of contemporary Cuban music is joined by a guaracha and classical style, which highlights the varied influences throughout the album. The neo-classical elements are quite cinematic and the light percussion takes listeners on a seafaring voyage into the heart and soul of everything Cuban. The romantic melodies are timeless and memorable. Hopefully, Final is not the final release of Ferrer's career. ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, March 6, 2014

CD Review: Various Artists' 'globalFEST Selector'

Various Artists
globalFEST Selector

globalFEST is a not-for-profit organization that promotes world music from around the globe that is marked by a music festival every January in New York City. The thirteen-track release covers the gamut of musical styles--ranging from electronica, Middle Eastern dance, African blues, and beyond. The album is quite contemporary, but still retains an ethnic charm full of lively instrumentation that is traditional. The North African trance music of Hassan Hakmoun is evident on the first track, "Balilli." Brooklyn Qawwali Party brings the late-Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's music to life, instrumentally speaking with a side of jazz, on "Sochan Dongian." Kailash Kher brings us a South Asian-tinged concoction of swirling electronica elements on "Rang Rang Ma." Other great tracks are included, such as "El Madi" from Noura Mint Seymali, "Khadadaa" by Namgar, and "San Kuily" by Alif Naaba. There are thirteen different artists presented here. Twelve of the tracks are previously unreleased, but the result is far from ho-hum. Every track is diverse, upbeat, and catchy. Great stuff! ~ Matthew Forss

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

CD Review: Atash's 'Everything Is Music'

Everything Is Music
Ars Mundi

Everything Is Music is titled from a poem by Rumi, a Sufi poet of the 13th century, which combines swirling, Middle Eastern rhythms with hypnotic flamenco, Indian, and Mediterranean influences. The mature vocals are not too boisterous and very akin to Cheb Khaled. The band is spearheaded by Mohammad Firoozi Dashtestani, who hails from Iran. The Farsi singer aids the help of fellow musicians, Roberto Riggio on violin; Dylan Jones on bass; Abou Sylla on balafon, djembe, and conga; Jose Manuel Tejeda on acoustic guitar; Jason McKenzie on drums and tabla; John Moon on violin; and Indrajit Banerjee on sitar. The nine tracks are a global goldmine of infectious sounds and world rhythms. The Austin, Texas-based band finds no trouble getting their music across to the local crowds, as well as an international audience. The music cuts through borders and beliefs by creating organic, yet accessible, music tunes. Rumi would be proud! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Thomas Blondet's 'Futureworld'

Thomas Blondet
Rhythm & Culture Music

Washington, DC-based DJ, producer, and global connoisseur, Thomas Blondet, brings us a rich, cinematic, and dance-laden collection of multicultural rhythms, melodies, and works of art. The globally-infused music brings together Indian, Balkan, Latin, and Caribbean influences with traditional vocals and stirring melodies that are awe-inspiring, pulsating, and unforgettable. This is not your typical heart-pounding dance repertoire. Instead, the music is more laid-back with a fusion of trip hop and lounge music coming to the forefront. Most of the tracks include featured musicians, such as Tina M, Monsoon, Carol C., Leyla Chatti, Kiran Gandhi, Filip Novosel,and Subatomic Sound System. The musical terrain traverses a range of styles and multicultural influences, but the music cinematic and dance elements are not to be missed. Futureworld should be heard by everyone in the presentworld. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Rebel Tumbao's Self-Titled Release

Rebel Tumbao
Rebel Tumbao
Sacred Rhythm Music

New York-based and world-traveled, Rebel Tumbao's leading musicians, Matt Jenson and Jose Clausell, bring together a roots-reggae and Afro-Cuban-inspired concoction of moving rhythms and melodies with fiery percussion and punchy horns. The self-titled work contains ten tracks and one bonus hit. Several of the songs are attributed to Bob Marley and one by John Coltrane, but the similarities pretty much end at their names. However, co-founder and keyboardist Matt Jenson is penned to the remainder tracks. "Natural Mystic" begins with a roots-reggae groove and it ends with a Afro-Cuban medley. "A Love Supreme/Exodus" contains much of the same vibrant, Afro-Cuban percussion, but it tends to move into an Cuban jazz vein. The music is soulful and not too unlike the funk and jazz of the 1970s. "Masters Of Greed" begins with a light melody, B3 sounds, and a laidback, sultry vocal track that gets into your soul and never lets go. "Spare A Nickel" heats it up a bit with punchy horns and sweeping, Afro-Cuban melodies and great vocals. Fans of Afro-Cuban, Jamaican, Caribbean, and roots, soul, funk music will love Rebel Tumbao. Be a rebel today! ~ Matthew Forss

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

CD Review: Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars' 'Libation'

Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars

Sierra Leone's ambassadors for everything good and happy bring us another exciting and catchy Afro-pop release. Libation is a celebration of life with twelve tracks of deliciousness. The reggae-tinged, "Can't Make Me Lonely," "It's So Sorry," and the incredibly catchy "Treat You Right." Other tracks take on a more Congolese rhythm pattern, such as "Gbaenyama," "Ghana Baby," "Maria," "Money No Do," and "Min Do Sin Tay." "Manjalagi" possesses a cumbia-type beat with African lyrics and a steady, danceable rhythm that is unforgettable. The upbeat, contemporary, and Afro-beat melodies are outstanding without any deficiencies. The sweet riffs and glorious, rippling guitar chords signify a pan-African presence that draws upon Spanish, Portuguese, and Caribbean influences. Overall, Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars mark a new year with their best album to date. This music is best served with some chilled palm wine! ~ Matthew Forss