Jazz Weekly, Album Review >>
EXOTIC MIXES OF SOUNDS FROM AFAR: Caramelo, Ceu, Ljuba Davis Ladino Ensemble, Nyaz, Jef Stott, Imani Uzuri
July 23, 2012
By George W. Harris
Caravaba Sereia Bloom
Six Degrees Records
Ljuba Davis Ladino Ensemble
East and West
Six Degrees Records
Six Degrees Records
The Gypsy Diaries
Here is an oversized handful of releases that looks for music outside of the Great American Songbook. Music from various countries and cultures that deserve a listen or two. The big question with music from the Second and Third World is a simple one for me: when should the music be “acoustic and authentic” as opposed to “updated and electronic”? These releases give examples of both genres, trying to capture modern ears but with traditional sensibilities
1)Caramelo describes itself as “Flamenco Funk.” That’s not a bad description at all, with the songs here mixing Spanish and English as if you’re walking down a street in San Juan , Puerto Rico,or what we used to call Spanish Harlem, NY. Sara Erde’s vocals, Jed Miley’s romantic guitar lead a team that also includes, bass, violin, accordion, trumpet, sax and congas, congas, CONGAS! The 7 tunes on this short but swee release are filled with passion, romance and energy, with Erde’s sultry delivery on “Como Quieres” a knockout. You can feel the sweat on the frets!
2)Brazilian chanteuse Ceu has released three albums now, each one being a bit more electronic and plugged in than its predecessor. Some of the tunes are overtly kitchy, as on “Falta Dear,” and while here gentle delivery wisps gently on “Amor de Antigos,” her English enunciation and dynamics on the likes of “You Won’t Regret It” and “Streets Bloom” sound quite uncomfortable and contrived. Most of the time here, as when she is siml backed by Gui Amabis’s bass, guitar and programming, she proves the adage that less is more.
3)Sephardic folk music never sounded better than this collection of Ladino tunes (in vocal AND instrumental versions by Ljuba Davis and her supporting team of Avram Pengas/bouzouki, Rachid Halihal/oud, Nadav Lev/Spanish guitar, Ossama Farouk/perc and Marty Confurius/b. The mix of stringed instruments is as intoxicating as the rhythms, with Davis’ earthy voice singing songs of worship, love and praise. The various tunes like “Et Dodim” and “Morenica” give off exotic aromas as if you’re strolling through a local market and taking in the various spices flying around. One minute you get the cumin, then the red pepper, then the oregano. A musical feast!
4) Niyaz, the trio of Azam Ali, Loga Ramin Torkian and Carmen Rizzo mix and match traditional Middle Eastern motifs and rhythms with an almost perfect blend of modern electronic. Ali’s passionate, sensually nasal voice floats over Iranian melodies like “Parishaan” and “ Shah Sanam” like a tightly woven carpet, while the melding of percussion, keyboards and stringed instruments keep the sound exotic without veering too often into sounding like a kitchy Armenian wedding. Guest artists bring in flutes, ouds, tablas and various other enchanting sounds on material like “Mazaar” that will make you feel like you’re travelling to a far away land whle sipping on a velvety mint tea.
5) Jef Stott likewise draws from the well of the Middle East, but supplies almost all of the instrumentation himself. The songs like “The Promise” and “Le Club Lebanon” are high on the electric percussion department, making the sound a bit too synthetic at times. Balancin this out are the guest appearances of tablas and flutes, with the vocals by a myriad of cameo artists preventing the music from sounding like an organic whole.
6) You will definitely want to check out vocalist Imani Uzuri. She’s got a texture to her sound that puts Cassandra Wilson to shame. Sticking to music associated with the rural south, she teams up with a group of kindred souls to grab into the red clay of the earth and let it ooze through her fingertips. “O’ Woman” or “Winter Song” will hit you between the eyes. Most of the songs are about love and love lost, but this lady sings like she’s lived it. Penetrating to the point of glorious agony.. 07/23/12 >> go there