Friday, December 17, 2010

CD Review: Funkmasters Mamarazzi

Independent Release

NY-based funkmasters, Mamarazzi, is a collective of Andrew Aprile on guitar, Sam Bathrick on percussion, Tacuma Bradley and Sam Franklin on tenor sax, Rob Cohen on keyboards, Tavi Fields as MC, Eric Herman on bass, and Jeremy Noller on drums. Little information is provided in the liner notes, but the music should speak for itself. In fact, the Ghanaian opener, "Sobobo", is a perfect funk-driven rhythm and beat. The urban rap beats on "8" and "Here We Go" contain equal moments of funk, jazz, lounge, Latin, and afro-beat. The instrumental sections are also varied and infectious. The downtempo beat of "Nu Dutch" is a jazzy number, while "Seeds" is a funky and lyrically poetic song of urban origins. The tropical rhythms of "Grapefruit" is appropriately titled and travels into a world of downtempo-meets-big band by the end of the song. The final song, "Gangster", is a vocal ballad with funky origins and loads of swagger. Bewilderness is not as mysterious as it first appears. With each listen, something new is revealed and it is always good. Fans of urban funk, tropical funk, and afro-beat may need to listen to Mamarazzi sooner than later. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Solo Kinobe

Leaving The Song Behind
Kinobe Publishing

Uganda's Kinobe is a virtuoso on the kora, kalimba, and harp. The music is crystalline pure and never dull. Kinobe's playing abilities are confirmed with each passing minute and scores of chords. The instrumental music "Ddungu" slides right into the kalimba-led "Omwana Omulungi" with Kinobe's vocals. As a vocalist, Kinobe shows signs of Baaba Maal or Youssou N'Dour. The ten songs are mostly traditional in scope with no signs of modernism anywhere to be found. The harp-led "Lusejjera" is a vocal song about locust infestations. Other songs touch on flutists, fishing, praises for kings, desert skies, hunters, children, and fish. "Mu Ddungu" is the only song replicated on Kinobe's other album, Awamu N'emikwano. Fans of Ugandan music will love it. Also, anyone with a passion for the kalimba, kora, or harp should be satisfied. Do not leave Kinobe behind. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Hawaii's Waitiki 7

New Sounds of Exotica

The exotic sounds of the 1950's, 60's and 70's have inspired Hawaii's Waitiki 7 to explore and reinvent the exotic lounge jazz sounds from tropical islands. The Latin-jazz and breezy sounds of the vibraphone, sax, flutes, animal calls, violin, piano, double bass, and assorted percussion make New Sounds of Exotica a favorite for any summer party. The instrumental songs are also inspired by Martin Denny or Arthur Lyman. The ensemble consists of Tim Mayer, Helen Liu, Zaccai Curtis, Jim Benoit, Lopaka Colon, Abe Lagrimas, Jr., and Randy Wong. Some of the musicians were Grammy-nominated for other projects. The immense talent of all performers are evidenced on the Tito Puente-like hit, "Bali Ha'i" to the slower, but no less brilliant, "When I First Love". There is a South American feel to many of the songs, along with tropical jazz. At any rate, Waitiki 7 are sure to bring loads of exotica to any location with shining results. There are even a few drink recipes included. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: 'Afghan Music'

Zohreh Jooya & Ustad Hossein Arman
Afghan Music

Formed in 2002, the Afghan Ensemble's latest singer, Zohreh Jooya and composer, vocalist, and harmonium player, Ustad Hossein Arman, transcend historical boundaries and present a fine set of folk music from Afghanistan's past. Zohreh Jooya was raised in Iran at a location near the Afghanistan border. Ustad Hossein Arman is joined by Khaled Arman on dilruba, tambur, rubab; Sobeir Bachtiar on rubab; Siar Hashimi on tabla, dholak, serbaghali, dyra; Osman Arman on toolak; and Wahid Kamran on tabla. The ensemble creates fascinating rhythms and moods that do not venture into modern arrangements. The music is relatively folksy with some influence from India, Central Asia, and Pakistan. Most of the songs are about five minutes in length, which allows for ample time to listen to the beautiful instrumentation and melodies. Any music coming out of Afghanistan today is rather rare in the global marketplace, so buy Afghan Music today and show your support for the Afghan Ensemble. Extensive liner notes are included in English, German, French, and Spanish. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Uganda's Kinobe

Awamu N'emikwano (Together With Friends)

Uganda's Kinobe is a talented vocalist, composer, and instrumentalist with an ear for world music. With the help of his friends, Kinobe assembles a group of musicians with expertise on the kora, kalimba, guitar, tama, harp, bass, balafon, calabash, and snare drum. The vocal songs are as good as the instrumental ones. A strikingly superb song, "Mu ddungu", is a desert-inspired track with Kinobe on vocals and kora. The up-tempo "Bukunja" celebrates the house as a special place of being. The vocals and percussion provides a rhythmic and danceable experience for all to enjoy. The faster rhythms are indicative of West African pop music or Central African soukous. The only English track is "Sorrow", which is about the ills afflicting human existence. An up-beat remix of "Abataka" is included as the final track. Kinobe offers a bright spot in the world of music by using instruments from long ago and infusing them into contemporary sounds. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Slovenia's Maja Osojnik Band

Maja Osojnik Band
Crne Vode (Black Waters)
Viennese Soulfood
Slovenia's Maja Osojnik Band is a modern folk group reinterpreting folk classics along with some original tunes. The band is as experimental as it is folk incorporating Balkan melodies, avant-garde experimentation, jazz, and electronic music with some degree of Brazilian piano parts. Maja Osojnik's voice seems like a perfect fit for Slovenian ballads or pop standards. The Scandinavian and Balkan regions have recently reinvented folk music with modern arrangements. However, Maja Osojnik is still modernized, but she seems to retain a higher degree of experimental music in a modern era with sharp, metallic noises and electronic sampling. The instruments are relatively rudimentary, and include accordion, bass, piano, trumpet, guitar, drums, recorder, and electronic effects. Some of the sound effects resemble static or scratches from tuning a radio station and interrupt the flow of the album, because it is an experimental approach. The best song is "Solze Na Oknih", because it is a great melody that sounds like it could have been created from a Heavenly source. Also, the music of Slovenia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and surrounding countries contain different melodies that do not follow simple song structures. Black Waters may be darkly mysterious or deeply engaging, but it is definitely worth a listen. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Seyed Ali Jaberi's 'Psalms of Loneliness'

Seyed Ali Jaberi
Psalms of Loneliness

Iran's tanbur master, Seyed Ali Jaberi, is classically trained in Iranian folk music. Seyed is joined on rubab, ney flute, kemancheh, guitar, daf, sound effects, and backing vocals. However, a majority of the songs are entirely instrumental with little if any vocalizations. The highlight of the album is the title track. The song takes on a symphonic overtone mixed with dervish rhythms and Mediterranean spice. The opener, 'A Traveler Through The Ocean of Abstraction', is a galloping tune with some vocalizations. The final track, 'A Story Told and Benumbed' begins with the beat of the daf drum and the violin-like shrill of the kemancheh fiddle. Seyed takes on folk music with such gusto he is enveloped in it's historical grasp, but not so much so he loses sight of futuristic visions. The tanbur lights up the tracks and it definitely surprises all who listen. Furthermore, all of the tracks range from five to ten minutes in length. Experience the folk music of Seyed Ali Jaberi for yourself or that special someone. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Robert A. Wolf's 'Krakatoa'


Indiana's Robert A. Wolf is a composer and producer of New Age music with a knack for the instrumental. His latest album, Krakatoa, is named after the famous Indonesian volcano as a symbol of musical creativity that is about to burst. The result is a set of tracks that sparkle with keyboard washes, pristine piano, and a light percussion base indicative of Enigma, Tangerine Dream, and Ronan Hardiman. The only vocals are angelic non-sensical sounds used intermittently throughout the album. The instrumental beat of "No Horizon" is musically boundless and aptly named as no horizon exists in this musical world. The equally enthralling "Distant Lights" is a perfect song and, by accident, a nod to the stellar piano and production work of Ronan Hardiman. "Caldera Sea" is a frothy cauldron of Mediterranean sounds with all the luscious keyboard washes one can handle. "Burnt Orchid" is a more piano-focused song than other tracks on the album. The final track, "Cracking the Mountain", incorporates all the sound effects, washes, vocal 'ahhs', and rhythmic beats inherent in any progressive New Age recording. Krakatoa should 'krak' the top 10 list of any New Age music chart. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Impressive Empresarios

Sabor Tropical

The Washington, D.C.-based band of modern Latin-funk is hitting the streets with the most impressive dance beats, trip hop rhythms, and dub-step on the market today. The Latin grooves border on jazz styles that heat up any occasion or mood. "Siesta" is an instrumental track right out of a Tejano film thriller. The album's title track, "Sabor Tropical", or 'Taste Tropical', contains a rhythmic groove out of the barrios or any club in Havana, Cuba. The Spanish vocals do not detract from the instrumentation and percussive tones. If there was such a thing as a Latino-Arab sound, then "Negrita Linda" would be a prime example. The deep bass beat, keyboards, and string sounds resemble an urban rhythm indicative of a club somewhere in Cairo. The classic throwback to Brazilian psychedelica and trip hop is the mainstay on "Grouper Soup". Dubtronica is another genre explored on "Happy Track". All in all, a good mix of vocals, modern sounds, and eclectic sounds paved by earlier artists, notably Nortec Collective, make Sabor Tropical an unforgettable release to start the new year and cause a January thaw wherever it is played. ~ Matthew Forss