Multi-instrumentalist Rick Waldron is one talented guy -aside from playing all the guitars, basses and keyboards on Africa he also gets in some trombone, mandolin and banjo, plus doing the composing, arranging and production.
The album is not really about the music of Africa, and the title track "Africa" is not a deep musicological investigation into African roots music. It does allude to that music, however, and is but one example of very lively and happy music which is extremely well conceived, executed and performed.
Behind Waldron's playing stands the very strong band of flutist Anne Drummond, saxophonist Alexey Nikolaev, drummer Ken French and percussionists David Solomon and Chaz Hastings, along with the crystal clear chorus of Jen Dunton, Bev Dunton, Jill Waldron, Nel Kreuger, John Kenning, Erin McGaughan and Larry Murante.
Each track has its own groove: the aforementioned "Africa"; "On The Dunes" with its lilting Brazilian rhythms and catchy melody; the meditative "Corner Of The Universe"; the sprite, very cool and energetic "Bdway Up" which ends with a terrific saxophone solo; "Goodbye" (not a cover of the Gordon Jenkins tune) is direct to the heart; the lovely and stylistically eclectic piano solo "Con Moto"; "In The Night" with its beautiful choral arranging; and "Running" which gives Waldron and company a chance to "rock out" a bit.
There are two covers: David Crosby's "Triad," the lyrics of which are rather upsetting, but which is done very well and a very nice straight-ahead take on "Autumn Leaves."
Not all jazz has to be relentlessly intense and intricate. Music is meant to be enjoyed by both its producers and consumers. Africa will most certainly bring a smile to anyone and everyone, but also a knowing nod from those who can appreciate quality, sincerity and precision.
On the Dunes; Africa; Corner of the Universe; Bway Up; Goodbye; Triad;
Con Moto; In the Night; Autumn Leaves; Runnin’.
Rick Waldron: acoustic and electric guitars, basses, keyboards,
synths, glockenspiel, melodica, trombone, hand percussion, mandolin,
banjo; Anne Drummond: soprano and alto flutes; Alexey Nikolaev: tenor
and soprano saxophones; Ken French: drums; David Solomon: congas,
percussion; Chaz Hastings: tablas; Rick Waldron, Jill Waldron, Jen
Dunton, Bev Dunton, Nel Krueger, John Kenning, Erin McGaughan, Larry
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