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Gwen & Tiana: African Time

Roger Farbey By

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It's not immediately clear that African Time is a jazz album at all. However, perusing the CD digipak's details, there are obvious clues that if not exactly jazz, it is certainly jazz-related. The first indication is the revelation that sharing the composing duties along with singers Gwen Thomas and Tiana Ewane is co-composer and guitarist Femi Temowa, who's no stranger to jazz, as his 2011 album Orin Meta will attest. In addition to playing the guitar parts, Temowa also produced the album. Then there are other well-known names from the jazz world participating here including, amongst others, keyboardist Oli Rockberger, Michael Olatuja on bass and special guest, alto saxophonist Soweto Kinch.

"De La Vie" features Gregoire Maret on harmonica (check out his fluid solo) with lyrics sung in French and benefitting from a catchy melody. In the midst of the irrepresible "I'll Make It" there's a breezy trumpet solo from Keyon Harrold. Likewise on "Letting Go" there's a short alto solo from Kinch. The soul/pop tune "Inner Kid" offers some sophisticated vocal harmonies and lush string accompaniment, closing with a lithe guitar solo from Temowo. There's even more substantive groove to be found on "Happy Again" with close-backing harmonies and rich guitar and horn ensemble contributions.

The percussion and horn augmented "Be Alright" is bursting with West African rhythm and an unequivocal good time feel. "Love Is The Answer" is one of the more complex arrangements that oscillates between dramatic power chords and agile, mellifluous vocals. But in case of any doubt of the deep emotional sensibilities imparted by African Time check out the simply gorgeous interpretation of Paul McCartney's "Yesterday," the only non-original on the album. Having studying music in France over the past ten years, Thomas and Ewane have re-visited their African roots to produce a debut album of considerable charm, bursting with soul-jazz accessibility.

Track Listing: African Time; De La Vie; Happy Again; The Quest; On The Lane; Letting Go; Inner Kid; Keep On Going; I'll Make It; Be Alright; Love Is The Answer; Yesterday.

Personnel: Gwen Thomas, Tiana Ewane: vocals, backing vocals; Femi Temowo: guitar, backing vocals; Michael Kowalski (2, 11), Oli Rockberger: keyboards; Michael Olatuja: bass; Marijus Aleska: drums; Junior Ali- Balogun: percussion; Hélène Dufour, Gaël Crelier, Letitia Crelier, Joëlle Ntawuruhunga (5): additional backing vocals; Strings: Symbolic Orchestra.Plus guests: Soweto Kinch: alto saxophone, vocals, Keyon Harrold: trumpet; Sona Jobarteh: vocals, kora; Grégoire Maret: harmonica.

Title: African Time | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Ubuntu Music

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