Gilfema: Gilfema (2005)
Gilfema, or more properly GilFeMa, is made up of three extraordinary players who are the unlikeliest of collaborators given their geographical origins. Guitarist Lionel Gilles Loueke, 30, hails from Benin in West Africa; drummer Ferenc Nemeth, 29, is a product of the jazz hotbed of Keszthely, Hungary; and acoustic bassist Massimo Biolcati, 33 is a Sweden-born Italian. Their congregation at Berklee led to postgraduate work, literally, at the Monk Institute, where they immediately came under the wing of Terrence Blanchard after being handpicked by no less than Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter.
Loueke may be the up-and-coming guitarist in jazz, having recorded on sessions led by Blanchard and Charlie Haden since 2003 as well as ones in the can with Hancock and Shorter; he's also turned in impressive gigs with both giants. Nemeth, for his part, has gigged with Blanchard, Billy Childs, and Chris Cheek, and appeared on Emmanuel Vaughn-Lee's impressive debut, as well as one of 2002's best debuts, the Francesco Guaiana Trio's NoJaz. Biolcati has also gigged with Blanchard, and his turn on Alon Yavnai's Picture This is not to be missed.
It is precisely that all-encompassing absorption of jazz pedagogy and association with jazz legend that pleasantly contradicts the most significant facet of this project: that these three let go of "all that jazz, focusing instead on songs and moods reflecting their ethnic roots. As wide as they may cast their nets, the members of this trio focus on the innate parts of their musical personas, with breathtaking results.
Loueke's "Gbede Temin features his vocals for a two-minute song followed by improvisation on the form, accented by vocal-animal samples intertwining with his lyrical guitar solo, supplemented by perfect scatting, supported by an odd-time ethnic rhythm and bass line. Here, as throughout, Loueke emotes on acoustic nylon-string while proving he is one the world's foremost scat-stylists, recalling and extending the skills of his countryman Richard Bona. Nemeth deals with finesse, flair, and fire, doubling up on the snare at irregular, highly interactive intervals. They end it with nothing short of a new song forged from the solo section, which, together with the surprising ending, conveys their simpatico swagger.
"Vera is Nemeth's familiar yet nonderivative plaintive ballad over a rolling backbeat and double-stopped pedals from Biolcati. Loueke's progressive elaboration of the melody during the solo spot is stunning, especially when he turns chordal while Biolcati snaps the low end of the spectrum over Nemeth's tribal encouragement. The pristine, pastoral take passes in what seems like seconds.
"Aligon shows us Biolcati's gifts for rhythmic placement and displacement in composition, stuttering while arriving at its destinations smoothly, gently prodded by Nemeth's drum'n'bass instigations while Loueke again intuitively slithers his way through. Biolcati's nimble, rock-solid solo never waivers from the midrange of the instrument.
Accessible stuff all, while running deep in complexities executed naturally and charismatically. A debut effort on paper, but to these ears a veteran set indeed. World music, maybeworld-class, definitely!
Track Listing: Dream; Lost Magic; Akwe; Gbede Temin; Vera; Tinmin; New Song; Okagbe; Aligon; Six and Three; At the Tree; Manding; Harmonix.
Personnel: Lionel Loueke: guitar; Ferenc Nemeth: drums; Massimo Biolcati: bass.