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Looking Back on 2003

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Here—in no particular order—are some of my jazz and "world" (a.k.a. Other Peoples' Music) picks for 2003. Although these discs might not seem to have much in common, close listening reveals currents and counter-currents of musical influences. My best guess is this has everything to do with musicians' reactions to good music. Enjoy!

O Samba É Minha Nobreza
Biscoito Fino
2003

For most Brazilians, samba is a deep-rooted passion, something that's as natural (and essential) as breathing. But there are devotees for whom samba's all-encompassing. These musicians and singers, known as sambistas , are both featured and celebrated on O Samba É Minha Nobreza ("Samba is my nobility"). The individual songs and thematically-organized medleys capture the essence of Carioca samba at its elegant, exuberant, often heartbreaking best. Must-hear material includes traditional percussion (straw hat, wooden matchbox and knife and plate) seldom recorded today.


Myriam Alter
If
Enja
2003

The latest from Belgian composer/pianist Alter, with Kenny Werner sitting in for her. Alter's influences are many and various (including tango, klezmer, Italian and Judeo-Arabic music), and make for music that's both meditative and highly engaging. The split lead (Dino Saluzzi on bandoneon, John Ruocco on clarinet) is particularly fine, as is Joey Barron's sensitive, fluid sense of time and rhythm-as-melody.


Janet Planet
Passion from the Wreckage
Stellar Sound
2003

Janet Planet is arguably one of our best jazz singers, and (like so many others), she's not signed to a major label. Though the A&R folks often lack imagination, Planet has plenty of it, put to devastatingly good purpose on this tribute to Lady and Lester. Taken together, the biting, sometimes dissonant, always challenging sax quartet arrangements and Planet's interpretations compel listeners to hear this set of standards in entirely new ways.


Les Yeux Noirs
Live
World Village
2003

Les Yeux Noirs' hyperdrive renditions of klezmer and Eastern European Gypsy repertoire go far beyond the work of most revivalist bands, in spirit as well as virtuosity. Leaders Éric and Olivier Slabiak know that this is resilient music, and aren't afraid to update it with a temperate use of electronics and percussion. Some of the Yiddish song lyrics are cloying, but that's a minor quibble, given the innate energy and drive of the performances.


Africando
Live
Syllart/Next Music
2003

Africando—a hard-driving salsa ensemble with (mostly) West African singers—is the brainchild of Senegalese producer Ibrahima Sylla. The supergroup's live recording, made at a sold-out Paris gig, is a class act all the way. Among my favorites: matinee-idol smooth Ronnie Barro ("Trovador," "Columbia Mi Corazón"), Haitian Eugène Shoubou (in a show-stopping performance of "Grog Mwin/Guantanamera") and the great Malian singer, Sekouba Bambino, whose high-flying riffs on the opening cut, "Apollo," set the tone for the rest of this truly riveting show.


Abyssinia Infinite
Zion Roots
Network
2003

I've had Zion Roots, the second European release by Ethiopian singer Ejigayehy "Gigi" Shibabaw, on "repeat" ever since it arrived. Gigi's set list (a mix of Ethiopian folk songs and original compositions with eclectic arrangements), has a wonderful immediacy and a very organic blend of instruments, both traditional and contemporary. (Witness the opening track, with Moges Habte's tenor sax lines weaving in and out of her floating, improvised vocals in an intricate call-and-response pattern.) On other cuts, the earthy twang of the krar lyre shares time with drone-like accordion and multi-layered percussion, all of it a highly effective foil for Gigi's voice and her folk (and church)-based singing style.


Daniel Mille
Entre chien et loup
Sunnyside
2003

For most of us North Americans, "accordion" and "jazz" belong in different universes. Not so in France, where the instrument has pride of place. This disc's a particular favorite, for Mille's passionate, subtle melodies as well as his elegant, nuanced use of musical elements from other cultures. The pieces on Entre chien et loup are finely-crafted and deeply-felt, performed by musicians who have an intuitive understanding of Mille's music.


Ghazal
The Rain
ECM
2003

Iranian kemancheh (spike fiddle) player Kayhan Kalhor and sitarist Shujaat Hussein Khan have recorded together before, but this live set is far and away their best. And no wonder, given the nature of their material—a fusion of Persian classical music and its North Indian counterpart (which is rooted in ancient Iranian culture), the music's dark and fiery, majestic and subtle all at the same time. (Both Kalhor and Khan have recorded as leaders, and their other projects are well worth seeking out.)


Minino Garay
y Los Tambores del Sur
Sunnyside
2003

Argentinian percussionist Minino Garay shines on his first outing as a leader. Many of the cuts feature his percussion troupe, Los Tambores del Sur, plus special guests who add a great deal of fire to the proceedings. There's an insouciant grace to this music, and it's very, very danceable. One of the disc's best features: the seamless integration of folkloric and urban music, from the violin-driven chacarera to Garay's intriguing spoken-word take on the tango.


Tracks and personnel:


O Samba É Minha Nobreza

Track listing, CD 1: 1. O Samba É Minha Nobreza/Primeira Escola/Quem Vem Lá?/Queremos Ver/ Mangueira, Não/Silenciar a Mangueira/A Voz do Morro/O Samba É Minha Nobreza; 2. Morro/Gorgear da Passarada/Ao Romper da Aurora/Na Linha do Mar/Manhã Brasileira/Esta Melodia; 3. Batuque na Cozinha/Malandro Pasteleiro/Quando a Policia Chegar/Patrão, Prenda Seu Gado; 4.Você Me Paga o que Fez/Não É Economia/Eu Não Sou Louco/Tens de Compreender/Falta um Zero no meu Ordenado/Salário Minimo; 5. Mulher de Malandro/Marido da Orgia/Amor de Malandro/Vou Contar Tintim por Tintim/Dinheiro Não Há/Essa Mulher Fosse Minha; 6. Fez Bobagem/É Pancada/Vai Trabalhar/O Dinheiro que Ganho/Inimigo do Batente/O Vento que Venta Lá

CD 2: 1. O Pagamento Ainda Não Saiu/Coitado do Edgar/Volte pro Morro/Se eu Pudesse; 2. Preconceito/Boogie Woogie na Favela; 3. Mãe Solteira; 4. Mandei Fazer um Patuá/Pisei num Despacho/Você Está Sumindo; 5. Um Caboclo Abandonado; 6. Na Aldeia; 7. Oh! Seu Oscar; 8. Chegou a Bonitona/Comigo Não/Calo de Estimação/Vaidosa/O Que É Que Eu Dou 9. Foi uma Pedra que Rolou/Só Vendo que Beleza/Minha Palhoça 10. Carta Fatal/Tá Maluca/Eu Não Sou Pano de Prato/Não Irei Lhe Buscar; 11. Reza/Cuidado Vovo/Candeeiro; 12. Natureza/Adeus, Mocidade/Alegria/O Samba É Minha Nobreza

Personnel: Cristina Buarque, Marcos Esguleba, Mariana Bernardes, Pedro Paulo, Pedro Miranda, Teresa Cristina, Roberto Silva, lead and backing vocals, percussion; Paulão 7 Cordas, 6 and 7-string guitars, cavaquinho, percussion, lead and backing vocals; Bernardo Dantas, 6-string guitar; Pedro Aragão, bandolim, cavaquinho, banjo; Mariana Bernardes, cavaquinho; Marcelo Bernardes, flute; Roberto Marques, trombone; Zé Cruz, straw hat; Marcos Esguleba, Trambique, percussion, backing vocals


If

Track listing: 1. Waking Up 2. Home 3. If 4. I think of it 5. It's all there; 6. Children play 7. An intrigant melody, 8. Moving somewhere 9. You should stay 10. Where you belong.

Personnel: Myriam Alter, composer; Dino Saluzzi, bandoneón; John Ruocco, clarinet; Kenny Werner, piano; Greg Cohen, bass; Joey Baron, drums


Passion from the Wreckage

Track listing: 1. Lover Man; 2. Good Morning, Heartache; 3. Them There Eyes; 4. Love for Sale; 5. You've Changed; 6. When Your Lover Has Gone; 7. You Turned the Tables on Me; 8. Easy to Love; 9. What a Little Moonlight Can Do; 10. Don't Explain; 11. Lady Sings the Blues; 12. My Man

Personnel: Janet Planet, vocals; Forrest "Woody" Mankowski, Tom Washatka, saxophones


Les Yeux Noirs: Live

Track listing: 1. Cioara; 2. Sanie Cu Zurgale; 3. Rozinkhes; 4. Joc de Loop; 5. Calusul; 6. Lluba; 7. Hora ca la Caval; 8. Cymbalum; 9. Yiddishe Mame; 10. Balamouk; 11. Ot Azoi; 12. Djelem; 13. Liebkeit; 14. L'alouette; 15. Danse du sabre; 16. Guene Roma; 17. Tchaye; 18. Lluba

Personnel: Éric Slabiak, Olivier Slabiak, violin and vocals; Pascal Rondeau, guitar and vocals; Marian Miu, cymbalom; Constantin Bitica, accordion; François Perchat, cello; Franck Anastasio, bass and vocals; Aidje Tafal, percussion


Africando: Live

Personnel: Sekouba Bambino, Ronnie Barro, Gnonnas Pedro, Bailly Spinto, Eugène Shoubou, Medoune Diallo, Amadou Balaké, lead and backing vocals; Bibi Louison, piano; Alain Deshayes, bass; Lino Fernandez, tres; Jean-Paul Ismaël, timbales; Puntilla Rios, bongos, cowbell; Wilbert Valera, güiro, maracas; Miguel Gomez, congas; Guillermo Fellove, Tony Brenes, trumpet; Jean-Louis Damant, Philippe Henri, trombone; Adama Condé, balafon

Track listing, Disc One: 1. Apollo; 2. Trovador; 3. Damagasi; 4. Naliye Gnimo; 5. Colombia Mi Corazón; 6. Irma Koi; 7. Katiana; 8. Mandali


Disc Two: 1. Betécé; 2. La Musica en Vérité; 3. Dalaka; 4. Gouye Gui; 5. Grog Mwin/Guantanamera; 6. Yaye Boy; 7. Doni Doni


Zion Roots

Track listing: 1. Bati Bati; 2. Gela; 3. Alesema; 4. Monew Natana; 5. Embe Ashafergne; 6. Gole; 7. Aba Alem Lemena; 8. Gedawo; 9. Lebaye; 10. Ethiopia

Personnel: Ejigayehu "Gigi" Shibabaw, lead vocals; Abegasu Shiota, keyboards; Moges Habte, tenor sax; Melaku Gelaw, washint (flute), krar (lyre); Tony Cedras, accordion, acoustic guitar; Aiyb Dieng, Karsh Kale, percussion; Tigist Shibawbaw, Teddy Shibabaw, backing vocals


Entre chien et loup

Track listing: 1. Les Minots; 2. Aube; 3. Thema de Maella; 4. Danse 7; 5.—8. Les errances d'une valse; 9. Novembre; 10. Entre chien et loup; 11. B; 12. Les Embrun; 13. Cinéma; 14. B Interlude

Personnel: Daniel Mille, accordion, accordina, vocals; Jean-Christophe Maillard, guitar, piano, Fender Rhodes, vocals, programming; Daniel Goyone, piano, Fender Rhodes, percussion; Laurent Dehors, soprano sax, clarinet, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet; Gérard Tempia Bonda, Christian Mille, violin; Fréderic Deville, cello; Rémi Vignola, Jules Bikoko, bass; Minino Garay, percussion, vocals


The Rain

Track listing: 1. Fire; 2. Dawn; 3. Eternity

Personnel: Kayhan Kalhor, kemancheh ; Shujaat Hussain Khan, sitar, vocals; Sandeep Das, tabla


Minino Garay y Los Tambores del Sur

Personnel: Minino Garay, Eddy Tomassi, Hector Gomez, Jorgos Dimitriadis, Xavier Jouvelet, Moy Nátenzon, Javier Estrella, Pablo Méndez, bombo legüero and cajon; Pajaro Canzani, electric guitar, vocals; Gerardo di Giusto, Lalo Zanelli, Stéfanus Vivens, piano; Leandro Guffanti, Julien Lourau, tenor sax; Nicolas Genest, trumpet; Daniel Casimir, trombone; Magic Malik, flutes, vocals; Luis Rigou, South American flutes; Daniel Mille, accordion; Eduardo Garcia, bandoneon; Fabrizio Fenoglietto, Jules Bikoko, bass; Jean-Christophe Maillard, guitar; Alfonso Pacin, violin, charango, guitar; Louis Winsberg, saz; Line Kruse, violin; Maxime Zampieri, drums; Miguel "Anga" Diaz, Sergio Roa, Benjamin Henocq, percussion; Minino Garay, Lalo Zanelli, vocals; DJ Shalom, mix.

Track listing: 1. Caribe; 2. Onomatopée 3. Sombras; 4. Chacarera del Violin; 5. La Celosa do tu Vieja; 6. Tema de Maëla; 7. Speaking Tango; 8. Elisa; 9. 20 Años de Pasión; 10. Mitos; 11. Gato de Cosquin 12. Venga; 13. Louanges du Sud

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