The WORLD MUSIC Radar (Episode #1/2019)

My personal statistics say that in the case of World Music it’s not so common to find records that are really worthy of attention, compared to other genres of music. But when we manage to come across a valid and meaningful album, we are usually in front of an extraordinary work of art, gifted by impressive quality and intensity. This is the reason why the list of records that I’m presenting in this article is particularly important.

In the following I’m presenting four albums of World Music that I selected among all those released in the firsts part of the year, specifically between the beginning of 2019 and the middle of March. Four artists, four different ways to intepret world music, but the same deep research for the maximum quality of the musical expression.

Enjoy this digest and don’t forget to come back periodically to check for updates.



“Bosque Magico – Tu Tiempo”, by Bosque Magico

In music, as well as in many other art forms, the fusion of different styles and cultures often produces the most surprising and spectacular results. This is certainly the case of Bosque Magico, the new project founded by German guitarist Ralf Siedhoff together with the Ukrainian oboist Mykyta Sierov. Two languages, approximately 2000 km of separation, but the two artists managed to meet on the musical level.

The music of Bosque Magico is absolutely elegant, delicate, varied and exciting. The presence of the oboe is certainly the most particular element: we are used to listening to this instrument in the context of classical rather than world music. The songs of the album range between quite different genres and styles: we have in fact influences from Indian music, flamenco, pop and jazz. For recording the LP, Siedhoof and Sierov were also supported by a group of skilled musicians: percussionists Karthik Mani (from India) and Ernesto Martinez (from Spain), drummer Magnus Dauner (from Germany), flamenco guitarist Manuel Delgado and his daughter Carmela on and bandoneon.

In short: this is a record that contains many innovative elements and it also presents multiple cultural elements fused together in an excellent manner. Not to be missed!



“Reminiscence”, by Aukai

Among the most interesting releases we had in the first weeks of the year there is an album that although originally included in the category of electro-acoustic records, it still features so many components of world music that it’s absolutely possible to mention it here. This is called Reminiscence, and it’s the new album produced by Aukai, which is the acoustic ambient project founded by American composer and instrumentalist Markus Sieber.

Reminiscence has the capacity to capture the listener’s attention with the elegance and the gentleness of its songs, which are relaxing but also engaging and moving. This album is ideal for every moment when you don’t want anything else than enjoying beautiful instrumental music, and let your mind travel.

I’ve published a dedicated review of the LP, you can read it from here.



“Elephantine”, by Maurice Louca

Another album that has caught my attention in the last months is Elephantine, the newest LP released by Egyptian musician and composer Maurice Louca, who is known also for being a member (and co-founder) of a number of formations such as Bikya, Alif and Dwarves. Elephantine was introduced by Louca as his most ambitious project to date, and in effect the LP sees him guiding a 12-piece ensemble.

The disk seems to be the result of two different compositional processes. On the one hand, we have a series of experimental songs mostly relying on the improvisational skills of the musicians. These songs are on the border between world music and pure experimentation and, to be truly honest, these are not among my favourites tracks the album. Then, there are other “classical” world music songs which are still based on the elaboration of an initial sequence of notes, but where the improvisation is kept more controlled and the development of the piece is made through the progressive introduction of different instruments. In these cases, in my opinion, the album reaches the highest, and impressive, levels of quality level. The opening track of the album, named The Leper, is representative of this second kind of songs, and it’s also one of the best pieces of the whole LP.



“Black Blank”, by Laurent Assoulen

Today, we’re very much used to listen to musical hybrids, and that between Jazz and World music is actually one of the most common ones. Nevertheless, when we enjoy a new album which manages to make us travel so naturally between different genres of music, it’s always a very nice and exciting experience.

Laurent Assoulen is a talented French pianist, but what impresses of his work is not much his technique, but rather the fact that he’s a great lover of fascinating melodies, ethnic sounds and popular tunes. And what he does with his ensemble is basically to share with us these beautiful themes by transforming them into catchy but still intriguing and poetic Jazz songs.

Assoulen’s new album, called Black Blank, features a number of pieces that reflect the modern canons of contemporary Jazz, but there are also many other songs where the pianist ventures into the field of World music, mixing the typical dynamics of Jazz with deeply suggestive ethnic sounds and melodies.

I’ve published a short review of the LP, you can read it from here.



If you liked this selection of albums, you will love THE VOYAGER, the playlist that I’m curating on Spotify with the best of World Music. Almost five hours of the most exciting and fascinating music from all over the world.


The JAZZ MUSIC Radar (Episode #1/2019)

The beginning of the year has been relatively quiet for what concerns Jazz music and this gave us the possibility to discover a few emerging artists. Let’s see the best albums that were released in the first two weeks of 2019, based on my personal selection.



“Diario de Vuelo”, by Jose Carra

Pianist and composer Jose Carra is considered one of the most creative artists of the new generation of Spanish jazz musicians. His style is strongly influenced by classical music and jazz and all of his pieces, both when he works as a soloist and when he’s supported by his musical companions Bori Albero (bass) and Dani Domínguez (drums), result always extremely poetic and incorporate many cinematic elements. In his most recent work, called Diario de Vuelo (“Fligth Journal”), the Spanish jazzist has evidently begun a phase of experimentation which sees him inserting many effects on the piano, as well as synthesizers and sounds from tape recordings. Diario de Vuelo is definitely a good record and it fits into that line of contemporary Jazz that looks at rock and pop as sources of external inspirations (we can mention GoGo Penguin and the early works from Tigran Hamasyan as references). The album is also characterized by a nice variation of atmospheres which make the listening experience absolutely rewarding. I’ve already published a quick review of the album. Check it out.



“Reason and Heart”, by Kevin Reveyrand

I feel a particular connection for the instrumental albums made by Jazz bassists: I believe that the music they write is often the perfect meeting point between the world of rhythm and that of melody. And in these first two weeks of the year I could appreciate even two valuable records from bass players. The one I liked the most is Reason and Heart, by Kevin Reveyrand. Reveyrand is playing his bass since more than fifteen years, mostly as sideman. He has accompanied artists of world music such as Souad Massi, Black Eyes, and Safy Boutella, but also many musicians such as Marc Berthoumieux, Vincent Peirani, Sylvain Luc, Patricia Kaas, Dominique Fillon and Manu Katché. Almost ten years ago he started working also on personal projects and he eventually published three albums: Tipari released in 2008, World songs released in 2013, and his new album Reason and Heart, released on January 12, 2019. The original songs of his latest album are characterized by a valuable richness of melodies and, as expected, a wide set of rhythms and bass lines that are really interesting to hear. The album blends in an excellent way the artist’s experiences in world music and jazz, and it’s also one of those works made to listen and listen again in order to appreciate those subtlety and details that may escape at first.



“Sunflower Sutra”, by Sean Hicke

American bassist and composer Sean Hicke started to get some recognition within the Ryan Dart Trio and eventally decided to start his solo career. On the early days of 2019 Hicke published his debut solo album, named Sunflower Sutra. The eight songs of the album presents a number of nice improvisations over simple folk-like melodies, and it’s quite impressive to see how a young player has already got a wide repertoire of playing techniques and also a remarkable musical sensibility. In this sense,
Sunflower Sutra seems a very promising debut record. Guests on the album include Louis Valenzuela (guitar), Matt DiBiase (vibraphone), Julien Cantelm (drums), and Camellia Aftahi, a classical bassist and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Diversity Fellow.



Melon Shades (S/T)

As a final mention, I came across a nice and funny record by a formation named Melon Shades, which consists basically of two friends from Maine, Shawn Russell and Henry Raker, who both used play in a local band called The Astral Pines and decided, at some point, to record an album as a duo. Saxaphone (or clarinet) and guitar, simple folk tunes and plenty of improvisations, this is a record that, in its essentiality, brings us closer to the original spirit of Jazz. Listening to the entire record in single run can be a bit monotonous, but the individual tracks are all interesting and enjoyable. The performance of the guitar is particulary intriguing.


 

AF-RUI-KA. Feel the warmth and passion of the African Continent

I’m launching today a new playlist on which I’m working since a couple of months. The name of the playlist is af-rui-ka and it was conceived as the special place for all the best music coming from the the African continent. You’ll find here ethiopic jazz, afro-beat, desert blues, and every other special music bringing to us the warmth and the passion of this magic land.


 

According to many historians, the term Africa comes from the egyptian word “af-rui-ka“, which means “to turn yourself toward the opening of Ka”. The Ka is the energetic double of every person and “opening of the Ka” refers to a womb or birthplace. Africa then would be, for the Egyptians “the birthplace” — the “motherland” of the Black people, Earth’s oldest known humans.

 


At the time of its launch, the playlist features both famous and emerging artists from the African continent. The list of contributors includes incredible artists such as Ethiopian singer and lyricist Girma Bèyènè, Tony Allen and Afri Kuti from Nigeria (the latter is the son of afrobeat pioneer Afri Kuti), Grammy-Award-winner singer Oumou Sangaré and guitarist Samba Touré, from Mali. There are also many interesting bands such Ba Cissoko from Guinea, the Tuareg formations Tinariwen and Tamikrest, and also the multi-ethnic group Monoswezi (with members from Mozambique, Norway, Sweden and Zimbabwe).

The list of artists is however going to increase because this playlist, as all the others managed by this blog,  will be updated frequently with new tracks and contributors.

Enjoy the playlist and follow it to keep yourself updated!


 

 

THE VOYAGER – Special Selections in World Jazz

Music is magic, especially when it allows you to travel with your mind through distant worlds. There are songs, then, that tell you of distant and special places, and when the art of music is married to a particularly inspired artist it seems really to be in a foreign city, tasting the scent of an oriental spice or feeling the warmth of the sand of the desert around your body.

This playlist celebrates and presents the best songs among those that encapsulate this magical ability to make us travel.  Enjoy this journey into foreign cities and exotic landscapes, and come back periodically because new songs are added frequently to make the experience always new and more exciting.