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Badi Assad: Rhythms

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I was fortunate enough to attend a concert on the Lee Ritenour - Dave Grusin - Eric Marienthal - and special guests tour supporting the Twist of Jobim album (and also the new solo releases by each of the above). The main part of the concert with the headliners was enjoyable enough (highlight: Dave Grusin's Henry Mancini segment; lowlight: loud, overbearing pre-recorded rhythm tracks and songs that stretched out a little too much). But I, along with the rest of the audience, was positively blown away by the unpublicized opening act, Badi Assad. Badi (pronounced "bah-djee") is a remarkable one-woman band. She doesn't just sing, she uses her voice as a multi-faceted instrument. Her tone suggests Flora Purim with better intonation; her style of combining singing, scatting, and vocal percussion is a cross between Joao Bosca and Bobby McFerrin. Her acoustic guitar-playing is also multi-faceted and boundary-busting, shifting effortlessly from comping to soloing to percussiveness, sometimes employing the two-handed technique pioneered by Stanley Jordan. And occasionally, she finds a spare hand or foot to play percussion. So naturally, I had to go right out and search out her albums.

So far, she has recorded three CDs for Chesky. This one was recorded in 1995 in St. Peter's Episcopal Church in NYC with no overdubbing. Cyro Baptista plays percussion on three songs, but otherwise, it's all Badi. This CD lives up to Chesky's reputation for clear, audiophile sound quality, but some of the live edge that was present at the concert (not to mention the mesmerizing visual impact of watching this multi-tasking human perform) is missing from the album. But it's still an excellent program and a highly recommended album.

Record Label: Chesky Records

Style: Contemporary/Smooth


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