N. Scott Robinson
Things That Happen Fast
New World View Music
If all the instruments played on this wonderful album were piled
together, they still couldn't match of the pile of cultural influences
evident. Robinson begins with simple percussion on one of his myriad
of instruments - frame drums, djembe, berimbau, udu, or cajon. Then
the improvisations begin. They can be simple takeoffs on his riff,
or combine with the talents of Nolan Warden and Joe Kaminski into
complex twists that never seem to end. Songs like Pegasus raise
world music crossovers to new ground. Harmony vocals by Malcolm
Dalglish and Moira Smiley combine a strong Celtic melody, Dalglish's
unique hammered dulcimer tapping out a counter melody, and simple
and effective percussion. This recipe strips world music back to
its basics for recombining as a new source of inspiration. One wishes
more of the album were like Pegasus, especially after five or six
minutes of percussion improvs. But best of all, it works.
Brian Whistler and Pablo Rodriguez
2001 Tingklik Music
On this first album under his own name, San Francisco - based Brian
Whistler collects a stellar backup group to record his jazz/world
concepts. First impressions are of Lyle Mays of the Pat Metheny
Group or some Weather Report with influences of Bali, Japan, and
other Far Eastern destinations. Pablo Rodriguez fronts these enjoyable
compositions with his tenor jazz vocals reminiscent of Al Jerreau
or Bobby McFerrin. On closer inspection, lyrics attack social issues
in a jazz context - a radio friendly cut remembers the forgotten
voices of the homeless and disposed of. Whistler is backed by a
retinue of jazz/world journeymen, including Kit Walker and Goeffrey
Gordon from Jai Uttal's group and Alfredo Reyes from Santana's early
group on drums. When not supporting Rodriguez's vocals, Paul McAndless's
reeds take over the songs, but it turns the heading farther back
to home. With this pedigree, songs slide along on more than competent
musicianship, but do not challenge or assault. Ambient openings
like on This Little World betray Whistler's training with Harold
Budd. Highly recommended for jazz/world explorers.
The World That Surrounds You
Janah is a rock group who's songs tread over Middle Eastern and
Asian influenced percussion. Although the melodies and lyrics are
basically Western, the connection with frontman Keith Johnston's
sojourns in the Middle East are unmistakable. Taking mostly from
the Bono and XTC schools of singing and songwriting, Janah creates
new music, more Western than Jai Uttal, and (much) more interesting
than Enya. The technically very talented sidemen add layers of texture.
Ron Cochran's substitution of a variety of hand drums for a traditional
trap kit gives Janah a unique sound, polished by Bill Douglass on
an array of exotic instruments, Michael Martin on classical guitar,
and Steve Atwell on bass. It's hard not to like this combination,
and, with an impressive stage show, the band is one to watch.
Un Paso A La Eternidad
Universal Music Argentina
It's about time hip hop returned from its trip to South America.
During its sojourn, it picked up Puerto Rican salsa, Brazilian jazz,
remnants of flamenco, and Argentinean bad attitudes. While the turntable
and raps from the four frontmen predominate, South America is the
natural destination for hip hop and its affiliation with the young
and disaffected. During its journey from Miami's clubs to the South
American barrios, it reconnected with them, but lost some of its
angry force. Although my daughter helped translate some of the raps
into English, I am still at a disadvantage in not understanding
their entire force. But anyone can enjoy this album, and Sindicato
possess the fire and the talent to succeed in returning this music
to us, changed for the better.
Mixing techno dance with Arabic instruments, rhythms, and quarter
tone chants, has become commonplace and no longer adventuresome.
One must now do it well. Allowing the underlying music to work its
own charm while waiting in the wings with synth washes and melodic
cues takes nerve and trust. Using Sussan Deyhim's voice, Bill Lasswell
show's his ultimate trust in the original music, allowing it to
take center stage and western influences to follow. This compilation
of recent crossovers by Middle Eastern artists now in San Francisco
- Cheb Sabbah, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Simon Shaheen along with their
coworker Bill Laswell achieve a height of meld. "Amorphous"
is a gorgeous layering of Arabic vocals and percussion on a bed
of ambient washes and sandy wind. Next best are a fascinating vocals
providing an aching tremolo over Jah Wobble and Temple of Sound's
walking bassline on the track "Hayati". I like it less
when western percussion is overlaid with Arabic roots like "Bouhala".
It seems like the roots are atop the stem, and doesn't work as well.
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Program Guide, 2002