You only have to look at Gilfema to realize just how small a place the world has become. Comprised of a young multinational group of playersBenin-born guitarist/vocalist Lionel Loueke, Italian/Swedish bassist Massimo Biolcati and Hungarian drummer Ferenc NemethGilfema's self-titled debut is clear proof of contemporary jazz's cosmopolitanism.
Loueke is the best knownan integral part of trumpeter Terence Blanchard's group for the past couple of years, appearing on his recent discs including Flow (Blue Note, 2005). He's also worked with pianist Herbie Hancock and bassist Charlie Haden, so for an artist who has only emerged in the past few years, he's amassed quite a résumé. He focuses almost exclusively on nylon-string acoustic guitar, but through use of a myriad of processing effectsdemonstrated to great effect on his solo debut, In a Trance (Independent, 2005)he's able to create a veritable orchestra with just one guitar and one voice, although his playing is less-affected here.
Biolcati and Nemeth are less-known, but have developed significant experience in the past decade, working with artists including Wayne Shorter, John Abercrombie and Herbie Hancock. And while both clearly incorporate the language of jazz, like Loueke their personal tastes run farther afield. It's not particularly surprising that elements of their individual cultural heritages show up on Gilfema. What is surprising is how they blend them and, at times, bring a song-like approach to material that is, nevertheless, rife with opportunities for all three to demonstrate their improvisational acumen.
Case in point: Loueke's opening track, "Dream. With a finger-picked two-chord African vibe supported by Nemeth's talking drum and Biolcati's spare underpinning, Loueke sings two lyrical verses in his native language. But before long the tune opens up, with Nemeth switching to the drum kit, and a four-chord vamp providing the basis for Loueke's increasingly harmonically-sophisticated solo. That Loueke can scat along in unison with his seemingly unpredictable phrasing is proof of the inextricable link between the mind and the hands.
"Lost Magic revolves around Nemeth's propulsive, train-like brushwork and a melody that seems to come from the heart of Brazil. Once again Loueke's singing and playing are remarkably joined; he clearly thinks in melodic and constructive terms, even when his harmonic sensibility heads away from convention. "Akwe heads back to Africa, with Biolcati managing to anchor the tune even as he interacts more liberally with Loueke.
The lithe "Tinmin may be in 13/8, but its light yet insistent groove proves it's possible to move the body, even in irregular meters. "Allgon is more energetic, with Nemeth at his most powerful and Biolcati delivering a solo that proves Loueke's not the only one with an imaginative melodic sensibility.
In some ways Gilfema is an interesting alternative to the similarly-complexioned Nomad (Enja, 2005), featuring Hungarian guitarist Ferenc Snétberger, Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen and Italian percussionist Paolo Vinaccia. That two multinational groups can share so much yet sound so different proves that, while many are intent on dissolving borders, you can't escape who you are.
Visit Lionel Loueke, Massimo Biolcati, Ferenc Nemeth, and Gilfema on the web.
Personnel: Lionel Loueke: guitar, vocals; Ferenc Nemeth: drums; Massimo Biolcati: bass.