From Britain to Boogaloo
Live at Bird's Eye embodies the truly global nature of modern jazz: Meurkens' fourth ZOHO release was recorded at two concerts performed at the Bird's Eye Jazz Club in Basel (Switzerland) by his Samba Jazz Quartet, which features this German-born vibes and harmonica player with Russian pianist Misha Tsiganov and the rhythm section of bassist Gustavo Amarante and drummer Adriano Santos, who demonstrate a deep intellectual and emotional familiarity with sambas and other forms from their native Brazil.
Tsiganov's solo acoustic piano introduction to "Dindi" reflects all the charm and beauty of one of Antonio Carlos Jobim's most lovely tunes. He steps back to serve as accompanist for Meurkens' harmonica, which makes the melody sound even loveliera little sad, a little happy, a little bright and a little blue. The Quartet's elegant dance with "Voce Vai Ver," another Jobim gem, closes this set.
Quite often, the crystalline sound and feel of Meurkens' vibes surrounded by the Quartet's supple but deceptively powerful Brazilian rhythms create magical musical alchemy. Their sound on the timeless "Body and Soul" suggests the ice cold bluesy funk of Milt Jackson, especially when he begins to swirl the familiar melody into ripples of blue sound that Tsiganov's shimmering accompaniment delicately reflects. His vibes pour out of Sergio Mendes' "Noa Noa" like a musical waterfall that just won't stop flowing, and Tsiganov's piano does too, while Amarante and Santos churn the rhythm into foam and froth.
But even among such famous tunes by Jobim, Mendes, Joao Dinato and Joao Gilberto ("Minha Saudade"), Meurkens' original "Sambatroplis" delivers the highlight of this set. In "Sambatropolis," Amarante and Santos fuse classical and contemporary Brazil in lively polyrhythms, Tsiganov grafts in Russian fire and passion, and the leader's vibes dance on top with a ringing sound as warm and happy as a joyous Snoopy frolicking atop Schroeder's piano in a Peanuts comic strip.
Six Degrees Records
Arkana is the tenth release by multi-instrumentalist and ethno-conceptualist Jef Stott, one of several artists forging new music through the merger of modern technology and electronic music with indigenous and historical music from around the worldin Stott's case, India and the surrounding region. And the world came very close to never hearing it: Thieves broke into and robbed Stott's apartment and all his computer equipmentincluding the hard drive with the finished Arkanawas stolen. "I just went back into the studio and made this album," he now recalls. "It's about reclaiming my place in the world, and bringing really powerful female energy back into my life."
Stott wrote or co-wrote every piece and simmers each one for a long and slow boil, which gives each groove plenty of time to steep into your muscle and mental memory. The opening "Deep Playa" (with vocalist Sonja Drakulich providing the "female energy") and subsequent "The Promise" illustrate two sides of the same coin with chattering electronic beats and rhythms that bridge the ancient and modern aspects of Stott's musical vision.
Co-composed with and featuring the vocals of Sophie Mae Lin, "Pulling of the Tide" sounds like a murky dream and casts a somber spell that should prove quite popular with the "tween Twilight" crowd.
"Le Club Lebanon" dances to a far more edgy drum beat. Stott mixes up a tense electronic groove that crackles with all the nervous energy of a disco under siege in a Middle Eastern war zone. The meaning of the words in MC Rai's incantation is less important than their itchy and intense sound, an intensity matched by string passages that divebomb in and out of the atmospheric mix (Stott has "explained" this tune as "Rachid Taha meets The Clash meets electro"). Stott rocks the "Gwana Jam" beat even harder and bounces the bass with considerably more rubber in its funk.
"I wanted to have a narrative, but also deliver on another level," Stott concludes. "The album is meant to be an imaginary soundtrack to an epic adventure film set far in the distant future. Behind it all is a really strong athletic female goddess with a huge sword in her hand. She's a warrior of light. She's always strong and compassionate, but she knows how to use her sword."
Long Live Boogaloo: Rare Latin Boogaloos from Spanish Harlem 1963-'72
Secret Stash Records
Long Live Boogaloo captures rare and sometimes underground Latin boogaloo, traditional Cuban music shot up like steroids with James Brown and other hard-driving R&B sounds, which emerged from Spanish Harlem in the 1960s, compiled by producer Bobby Marin for Secret Stash.