New World Music Reviews

Welcome to my "New World Music" page, which highlights new(ish) African, Asian, Latin American and Celtic records, and "miscellaneous" records that I had the good fortune to check out in Late Summer, 2012. This page is added to as new records come in... If you want more to read more reviews, many others are archived nearby, and there are separate sections for various kinds of world music that you might like exploring as well.

Recommended Records: Summer, 2012 | Review Archives | World Music Index

Asgeir & Mo "Danza De Andalucia" (2011)
(Produced by Asgeir Aaroen)

Scandanavian flamenco? You betcha! Norwegian guitarist Asgeir Aaroen and violinist Bjarte Mo draw on a wealth of global traditions for this all-acoustic set: flamenco and other Spanish styles, Brazilian bossa nova, Arabic classical and "new acoustic" guitar music. They are joined by a modest backing ensemble, mainly standup bass and several percussionists; the overall sound is quite easy and relaxed, and very soulful. If you enjoy mellow world-meets-acoustic music, you might want to check this out.

Clarice Assad "Home" (Adventure Music, 2012)
(Produced by Jim Luce & Richard Zirinsky Jr.)

A samba-soaked hard-jazz outing, with pianist/vocalist Assad channeling simultaneously Nina Simone and Clara Nunes, with a smidge of Carmen Miranda in there for good measure. Ms. Assad is the daughter of Sergio Assad, and she draws on a wide range of influences, with a rugged form of mainstream jazz being perhaps the dominant strain -- plenty of keyboard flights and scat singing explorations, along with swift, sure accompaniment by percussionists Keita Ogawa and Yousif Sheronick. Assad pays homage to Braz-jazz icon Elis Regina in the opening medley, and covers several Brazilian standards, notably Ary Barroso's "Aquarelas Do Brasil," which she reframes as a slow, tribal chant. This isn't really my cup of tea, but I can see where jazz fans might dig it.

Brazilian Trio "Constelacao" (Motema, 2012)
(Produced by Michael Brorby)

This is a very pleasant, mellow set of contemporary jazz by three talented Brazilian players - pianist Helio Alves, drummer Duduka Da Fonseca and bassist Nilson Matta - who have played together for years, including in the Brazilian Trio formation. This is very nice, elegant, no frills small-ensemble jazz, soft but not gooey or fusiony. The sweet, well-rounded melodies have kind of a lilting bounciness, accentuated by gentle rhythmic nudges. This is a relaxed, ensemble work, rather than a showboating solo-fest and the Brazilian-ness of the outing comes through in some original compositions along with several standards by Antonio Carlos Jobim, as well as tunes by saxophonist Tenorio, Jr. and Dori Caymmi. Nice stuff - simple and unpretentious, yet full of lively good cheer.

Candeia "Dose Dupla: Luz Da Inspiracao/Axe! Gente Amiga Do Samba" (Warner Music-Brasil, 2011)
A beautiful and most-welcome reissue of two classic albums by Brazilian samba composer Antonio Candeia, one of the pioneers of the 1970's pagode roots-samba scene. This 2-CD set includes 1977 's Luz Da Inspiracao and his last album, Axe! Gente Amiga Do Samba, which was his last album before his untimely death later that year. Despite the beauty of his compositions, Candeia retained a few pleasantly rough edges. which manifest themselves differently on the two records; the first album has some lax, loose moments (but plenty of great tunes) while Axe! is a more tightly focussed effort -- Candeia croons beautifully and with great soulfulness, easily matched by his numerous guests, which include here Martinho da Vila, Casquinha da Portela, Noca de Portela and others from the Portela samba school. It's all lovely music, with all the hallmarks of the '70s samba sound: graceful melodies, sweet cavaquinho and other acoustic instruments, a soulful vocal chorus and irresistible rhythms. Highly recommended!

Hamilton De Holanda "Brasilianos 3" (Adventure Music, 2012)
(Produced by Marcos Portinaria & Hamilton De Holanda)

A low-key, sort of noodly, acoustic jazz set, featuring Brazilianbandolim (mandolin) player Hamilton De Holanda leading a quitet that also features bassist Andre Vasconcellos and guitarist Daniel Santiago... Milton Nascimento, the king of noodly Brazilian jazz, guests on "Guerra Y Paz," while De Holanda's improvisational mandolin picking fills out much of the album's center stage. This didn't quite ring my bells, but soft-jazz/world fusion fans might feel more strongly about it than I did.

Monday Michiru "Soulception" (Adventure Music, 2012)
(Produced by Monday Michiru & Richard Zirinsky, Jr.)

A jazz vocals-meets-soul outing from Japanese emigre Monday Michiru, an acid-jazz pioneer (and daughter of pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi) who blends in Brazilian motifs while covering material by Hamilton De Holanda and Milton Nascimento. Also adding an extra Brazilian "Black Rio" tinge is soul-funk singer Ed Motta, who contributes a crooning rap duet on "Bridges." The English-language vocals are underscored by funk riffs and experimental touches - not my cup of tea but I could see where fans of Esperanza Spalding, Norah Jones, Flora Purim, et al could get into it.

Vusa Mkhaya "Vocalism" (ARC Music, 2012)
(Produced by Vusa Mkhaya)

A sweet set of South African vocal music, alternating between gorgeous small-chorus a capella songs and lightly-arranged pop material. It's all quite nice -- gentle yet inventive, full of soulfulness and good cheer. And this is from a guy (me) who doesn't really care that much for modern South African pop. Definitely worth checking out.

Ali Akbar Moradi & Bahar Mohaved "Goblet Of Eternal Light" (Traditional Crossroads, 2012)
An elegant, solid set of traditional Kurdish music from Iran; vocalist Bahar Mohaved has a beautiful, authoritative voice, feminine yet stately...Folklorist and composer Ali Akbar Moradi accompanies Mohaved on the tanbur drum, which forms the basis of this particular set of songs. Moradi wrote new arrangements for several traditional songs in the tanbour style and composed several original pieces as well. He also provides explanatory notes and translated lyrics in the concise, informative liner notes. Fans of Middle Eastern groups such as Ghazal will definitely want to check this out.

Philippe Baden Powell "Piano Masters, Volume Two" (Adventure Music, 2012)
(Produced by Jim Luce & Richard Zirinsky, Jr.)

Sparse, meditative Brazilian jazz piano explorations from Philippe Baden Powell, son of the legendary guitarist Baden Powell. The repertoire includes several of his original pieces alongside MPB standards by composers such as Edu Lobo and Caetano Veloso, as well as jazz standards such as Thelonious Monk's "Round About Midnight" and John Coltrane's "Giant Steps." What I found interesting about this album was how it took such modern material and recast it to echo the improvisational elements of the choro style, subtly recalling the Brazilian proto-jazz of the 1920s, albeit in a slowed-down, contemplative style. Certainly worth checking out for contemporary jazz fans.

Taraf De Haidouks & Kocani Orkestar "Band Of Gypsies 2" (Crammed Disc, 2011)
A lively concert album featuring the combined forces of two high-profile Balkan bands, the brassy Kocani Orkestar and the scrappier, more acoustic-based Taraf De Haidouks, melded together in a mammoth 26-member mega-band. In some ways this is surprisingly mellow -- energetic, but not with the manic intensity and piercing quality of some modern Balkan music. Fans will love it, and newcomers may find it more accessible than some sharper-sounding studio albums. Also, you can really feel the joyfulness of both the audience and the bands in this warm live setting. Recommended!

Various Artists "ADVENTURE MUSIC: TEN YEARS" (Adventure Music, 2012)
A generously-programmed 3-CD compilation of work on the Adventure Music label, an jazz-oriented indie founded by new-acoustic pioneer Mike Marshall as an outlet for his own explorations of various world music styles. The bulk of the catalog is from Brazil, with new releases by Braz-Jazz old-timers such as Moacir Santos, Toninho Santos and Jovino Santos Neto, as well as newcomers such as Marcos Amorim, Clarice Assad and Hamilton de Holanda; Marshall himself as delved into Brazilian styles such as the dixieland-ish choro, and contributes some tracks as well. There are many non-Brazilian artists in the mix, including the Swedish folk group Vasen, who Marshall has performed with, and many others. This set was selected by one of Adventure's newly-signed artists, Monday Michiru, who has an album of her own coming out as well.

(Produced by Vincent Kemis)

A fascinating, invigorating set of unruly, ecstatic music from the Congolese city of Lubumbashi, near the Zambian border. Karindula music features a large "banjo" built out of an empty oil barrel, an instrument large enough (and sturdy enough) to sit on while playing. This album features four bands -- BBK, Bana Simba, Bena Ngoma and Bana Lupemba -- all of them high-energy and capable of stirring up what sounds like a crowd of listeners on the street, moving a childrens' chorus to sing their music with gusto and power. The liner notes refer to Karindula as a "tradi-modern" style -- its roots are in the 1970s, but it has a raw, tribal intensity, and will be sure to turn the ears of many a jaded world music fan. Definitely worth checking out!

Various Artists "SENSACIONAL SOUL, v.3" (Vampisoul, 2012)
The Vampisoul label really pulls out the stops on this hard-hitting 2-CD Spanish soul collection, finding nugget after nugget of rare, rugged rock/soul singles from the 1960s and '70s. If you liked Los Bravos "Black Is Black" (or the previous two volumes in this excellent series...) then prepare to be knocked flat by groups such as Los Arlequinos, Los Gogos and the Pop-Tops. A bunch of these songs are in English, and while personally I prefer Spanish-language material, it's hard to argue with the forcefulness and vigor of the performances. Hot stuff: definitely worth checking out!

New To Me...

Aparecida "O Samba De Aparecida" (CID, 2000)
A best-of set of roots-samba singer Aparecida, a gal with a husky, dusty voice and lots of great musicians backing her up... The basic sound is tight, slinky percussion punctuated by the keening samba choruses of Brazil's "samba raiz" scene, which in this case comes along with a heavy dose of Yoruban-influenced "umbanda" spiritualism... Some songs are groovier and more distinctive than others (although the whole album is top-notch) and I suppose further exploration is required: gotta find those magical albums! In the meantime, this collection is highly recommended, though perhaps not for everyone.

Gilson De Souza "Poxa" (Tapecar/Discobertas, 1975/2010)
(Produced by Luiz Mocarzel & Wilson Mouro)

A classic '70s samba/MPB album from Brazilian pop songwriter Gilson De Souza, who made his mark when crooner Jair Rodrigues recorded his song, "Orgulho De Um Sambista" on his (super-fab) album of the same name. The big hit here was the song "Poxa," one of many tracks with an intriguing mix of standard-issue pagode samba stylizations (cavaquinho, percussion, vocal chorus) and sleek, tony pop/MPB touches (prominent string arrangements, woodwinds, electric bass, etc.) bonded together by De Souza's thin, light vocals and, of course, his richly-layered songwriting, and his knack for catchy choruses. At first I was a little taken aback, but this grew on me. Definitely a welcome reissue!

Rosa Passos "Rosa Canta Caymmi" (Lumiar, 2000)
(Produced by Almir Chediak; arrangements by Lula Galvao)

A tribute to samba-cancao composer Dorival Caymmi, with a delicate, dinner-jazzy accompaniment featuring pianist Fabio Torres and guitarist Lula Galvao. Passos' vocals are as pretty as ever, although the arrangements are pretty generic -- pleasant and unobtrusive, but also somewhat standard-issue. Nice and mellow, but not as magical as some of Passos' other albums.

Martyn Wyndham-Read "Undiscovered Australia" (Musica Pangea, 1996)
One of my favorite acoustic folk musicians, Australia's Martyn Wyndham-Read is a soulful, traditionally-minded trad-folk balladeer, much in the same vein as England's Nic Jones. This CD is a best-of collection, drawing on three albums that he recorded for the Fellside label -- the songs are uniformly excellent, ranging from standard-issue '60s-style folk to spooky ghost stories such as the haunting "The Water Lily," historical ballads and, of course, a number of sheep-shearing songs -- a big topic in older Australian folk songs. This is a great introduction to Wyndham-Read's work; if you enjoy British trad-folk, but all means pick this up and discover this little-known but first-rate artist!

Various Artists "O SAMBA & OS SAMBISTAS" (Iris Musique, 2000)
A great 2-CD overview of the roots-samba sound, with some well-known Brazilian stars such as Martinho da Vila and Bezerra da Silva, but more importantly several off-the-radar performers such as umbanda singer Aparecida, Dicro, Rubens Da Mangueira and a few tracks by various samba school ensembles. Really fun stuff!

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