Saturday, May 11, 2013

In review--Cradle Music

Gondwana Dawn 
Africa & India: United in Music & Harmony
Arc Music

Heart and soul went into the Gondwana Dawn recording and project that partnered South African choral youth with Indian classical luminaries.  The liner notes describe the recording as, “From the swirling mists at the dawn of time come the ancient eastern hymns of the Veda, and the ancient spirituality of Africa, the Cradle of Humankind.”  Founder of the project Robin Hogarth (producer/composer/specialist in African music) joined with internationally-acclaimed Indian classical musician (vocalist) Sumitra Guha while bringing in classical Indian and vibrant South African choral singers together as they explored the concept of non-violence. The peaceful music allows us to drop our consciousness into our hearts while enjoying traditional music from South Africa and North India.  I dare anyone to feel angry, sad, or frustrated while listening to these delightful songs.

The CD opens with Dawn an invocation sung by Sumitra Guha and then the lively choir voices and the band builds the song to a satisfying crescendo.  Ghulam Ali’s sarangi solo opens the second track, Kalavati Ubuntu (based on the Indian raga Kalavati) with African vocals and rhythms creating counterpoint with the classical Indian vocals.  The song speaks of brotherhood while gazing at Mother India as “the cradle of truth and non-violence.”  Freedom Song finds its roots in a traditional Zulu song with the text sung in English.  The musicians reflect on the principles of peace and brotherhood as portrayed by Nelson Mandela and Gandhi.  These three songs set the tone and context for the recording and then we hear a stunning mix of African rhythms, Indian classical beat cycles, exotic Indian instruments and heartfelt vocals coming together in surprising ways.

The timing for Gondwana Dawn helps each of us to reflect on our expectations for life on this planet.  The musicians pose a question to us on whether or not we will focus on peace, brotherhood and forgiveness while enjoying the sacred energies that surround us, or will continue to divide, separate and harm others? Projects such as this one raise consciousness while providing audiences with enticing world fusion music.  Buy this CD for yourself and your friends.  Give it as a peace offering to your enemies and then sit back and enjoy music that reminds us of the origins of humanity.

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

In review--Lifting Vibrations

Joe Locke 
Lay Down My Heart
Blues & Ballads, Vol. 1 

On his January release, Wish Upon a Star, jazz vibraphonist Joe Locke paired up with Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra exploring rich harmonics of popular songs.  And on Lay Down My Heart, Locke dives into blues and ballads thus creating another set of relaxing songs for people to unwind at the end of the day (this mission mentioned in the liner notes).  Opening with Bill Wither’s signature tune, Ain’t No Sunshine, we might say that the musical journey also heads down memory lane.  The bluesy cover Makin' Whoopee (Walter Donaldson/Gus Kahn), offers a similar respite.

Locke’s original, Broken Toy possesses a sweet and lilting motif that both charms and relaxing with its interlocking vibraphone and piano.  Bittersweet (Sam Jones) picks up the tempo in be bop fashion.  Then the pace slows way down on I Can’t Make You Love Me (Michael Reid/Allen Shamblin) which melds blues with new age and jazz.  On Meaning of the Blues (Bobby Troup), the piano, bass, brushes on cymbals and vibraphone create a warm and romantic atmosphere and in fact, I believe this is my favorite song on the recording.  The quartet (Jaimeo Brown-drums, Ryan Cohen-piano, David Finck-bass and Locke-vibraphone) grooves hard on Frank Foster’s Simone, then the musicians explore new harmonic territory on Locke’s This New October.  The album closes with delightful Dedicated to You (Sammy Cahn/Saul Chaplin).

I’m giving a pre-listen (among many) to this recording on a rainy April Sunday in the Pacific Northwest.  My senses are heightened anyway with fragrant spring flowers, the soft rain cleansing the earth and Joe Locke’s vibraphone and these arrangements hit the spot.  I believe that Type A personalities especially could unwind listening to these arrangements and also enjoy the intricate weave of percussion and melodic instruments.  If you listen closely, you can hear the musicians’ hearts and souls.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

In Review--From Tucson to London

Ray Sandoval 
Próxima Parada

In an age of fusion food and music, Ray Sandoval, guitarist-composer records flamenco-tinged Latin jazz with folk-world elements also on his canvas.  His fifth outing, Próxima Parada even fits into the crossover new age category in the same vein of Strunz and Farah or Jesse Cook, if those musicians took the Cuban rustic route.  Actually, beyond the borders of genres, Sandoval composes and performs straight forward music with strong melodic hooks, and percussionist Satin Singh adds some tight Latin grooves.  The songs offer a warm relaxing vibe, while having enough vibrancy to not end up buried in audio wallpaper.  And if you need something livelier, listen to the track I Do.

All the tunes were penned by Sandoval except a Latinized version of Thelonious Monk’s ‘Round Midnight.  Most of the songs here would ignite a romantic evening, just listen to Sakura Sky, for instance, and this sweet music would enhance a quiet gathering.  However, I prefer to listen to the CD with headphones without any distractions.  Overall, the songs glide by at a medium tempo with no harmonic surprises or jolts along the way.  Anyone needing to unwind could do no better than to slip this CD into the player, kick back, and merge with the songs.