by: Hobart Taylor
Debo Band - Ere Gobez - (FPE Records)
Ethiopian funky folk tunes coalesce around a jazz rock backbone to create the sort of dance party in your brain that won't quit. Think Brave Combo, Go Go Bordello, King Sunny Ade. This is my pick for summer jams of 2016. Faves: "Blue Awaze", "Oromo" and "Eyew Demmu".
Orbert Davis and the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic - Havana Blue - (316 Records)
The title composition is actually a suite of seven classic Cuban big band ("orquestra") tunes with horns and strings floating over alternately ambling or darting syncopated percussion. It is a stroll along mist infused Havana quais sometime deep after media noche. The other tunes are still Cuban but have a New York edge to them (Machito/Dizzy). It is beautifully played and a fitting homage to a seminal tradition in jazz.
Nana Simopoulos - Skins - (Self Released)
On vocals, bouzouki, and guitar, composer Simopoulos has been a bridge between jazz masters Charlie Haden and Don Cherry and sarangi virtuoso Ustad Sultan Khan. Her work is based on overlaying various musical traditions (Indian, Greek,) over jazz changes. Saxophonist Dave Liebman contributes mightily to this effort. My picks, "Inside", "Anases", and "And Ever".
The Same Heart - (Soundtrack Compilation) - (Motema Records)
Made for a documentary about promoting a 1/2% fee on all financial transactions in order to eliminate global poverty (a "Robin Hood Tax"), this soundtrack has excellent cuts from Marc Carey, "Tanktified", Jaimeo Brown, "Somebody's Knocking" and "Mean World", Geri Allen "Red Velvet in Winter", Oran Etkin, and other jazz musicians as well as some of Africa's biggest pop stars.
Antonio Ciacca Quintet - Volare, The Italian american Songbbok - (Cellar Live)
From Vancouver comes this pianist and his cohorts who skitter over the effervescent gurgling stream of poppy mid twentieth century jazz pop like so many dragonflies. The title tune is delightful but the meat is in the classic bop tunes like "Chick's Tune", (Chick Corea), and Ciacca's own tunes like "Scotty" and "Joe Avenue".
Mac Gollehon & The Hispanic Mechanics Mac Gollehon & The Hispanic Mechanics - (True Groove)
Acid jazz and RPM with a Latin tinge. The beats are insistent, the horn parts alternate between mellifluous and tinny, the vocals are super tweaked. A hella good set of jams.
Jeff Narell - Sirocco: Pan Afro Mix - (Self Released)
Prolific steel drummer Narell juxtaposes Caribbean steel pans with various African drums and chants creating a sound that seems pretty natural but slightly unfamiliar. My fave, "Sirocco" and "Step by Step".
June Garber - This I Know - (Self Released)
Canadian singer Garber takes an African tune or two, jazz standards, and ballads and stitches us a pleasant polychrome quilt. I like the meditative "Live for Life", a 60's Euro classic, and the South Africanish "Meadowlands".