Saturday, June 1, 2013

In review--Carmen's Favorite Songs

Carmen Souza
Galileo Music

Cape Verdean-Portuguese vocalist (and songwriter) Carmen Souza returns with Kachupada.  Exploring jazz and African Diaspora musical styles, Souza pushes musical boundaries singing in a voice that could claim soul sister-ship with American folksinger Victoria Williams.  She opens with the effervescent Manhã l de Dezembro followed by an accordion-laced Donna Lee (American jazz given a French swing makeover).  How do you even begin to describe the third track, Luta (Fight), other than pan-Africa meets Brazil and Cuba?  Souza sings with syncopation along with poly phonic percussion, savory flute, and beatnik bass lines.

As eclectic as the musical portion sounds, Souza possesses an otherworldly voice that when it grounds itself becomes deliciously earthy.  The arrangements by Souza and her producer Theo Pas’cal surprise, tease, and tickle our ears.  Souza’s version of My Favorite Things delights with its off-the-wall arrangement and stunning horn solo.  I would like to see the Von Trapp family sing this version.  Actually, it took me a few times to get this version, but now that I do I find it raw and refreshing to any version I’ve heard previously of this heavily covered song.

If you seek Cape Verdean music, listen to Ivanira, which does a bit of world travel.  Jonathan Idiagbonya’s piano and Tuche’s guitars hit the spot.  The snappy Amazing Land carries appreciative sentiments about the natural world.  And when I look briefly at the song descriptions, I come away with nature, hope, gratitude, and happiness.  Souza brims over with joyful expression and without knowing too much about the musician, she must leave her audiences in a delightful space.  She ends the album on a high note with New Day and indeed, after taking this music tour, it feels like a new day.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

In review--Evening Songs from the World

The Idan Raichel Project
Quarter to Six

Israeli peacemaker and musician Idan Raichal returns with his musical collective of emerging and established musicians on his latest release, Quarter to Six.  Signifying the moment before darkness falls (early evening) and based on a quote he overheard, the songs possess a soberness and gravity.  The album includes 16 tracks divided into two sections, Part A and Part B and represeningt various styles from world pop to classical (In a Quiet Night featuring the German counter-tenor Andreas Scholl).

I have mixed feelings about the songs.  On one hand, each of the songs features strong melodies, stunning vocals (especially the guest appearance of Ana Moura on God Knows), and some beautiful acoustic arrangements.  On the other hand, I’m not fond of programming or world pop since my preferences lead towards classical and folkloric music performed on acoustic instruments.  So the bones of the songs please my ears, even if I find some of the songs overproduced.  Raichel composes delicious melodies and he possesses a loving and peaceful heart which comes through in his performances here.

Having said that, I have favorites here--songs which I could play on the repeat mode including, Raichel’s duet with Ana Moura (God Knows or Sabe Deus), Vieux Farka Toure’s endearing acoustic piece, Mon Amour, the first half of In A Quiet Night with the piano playing ostinato to Andreas Scholl’s splendid vocals.  I also enjoy the opener, Evening Falls and felt delighted to hear Colombian vocalist Marta Gomez contribute text and vocals to the song, Behind My Soul.

Quarter to Six works as a collective of diverse musicians coming together in good will to share their talents.  I also encourage Raichel to lean further into the acoustic direction because the acoustic tracks on this album, in my opinion, touch my soul on a deep level while the songs with programming distract me.  Then again, a musician needs to follow his or her own inner guidance.