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New World Beat: After Carnival

Edward Blanco By

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The music of Brazil, a slice of the smooth style, a heavy dose of world rhythms and a pinch of jazz fusion provide the ingredients for the exotic and refreshing new sound captured on After Carnival, the brilliant debut from the Miami-based New World Beat. Led by vibraphonist Richard Sprince, a veteran of world music and an explorer of the Spanish Flamenco and African rhythms he has garnered over his years spent touring Europe and the globe, this group of international players delivers these diverse musical elements in a manner fitting with their vast experience.

Although nine Sprince-penned originals comprise the bulk of the album, two Pat Metheny covers—"Last Train Home" and "Sueño Con Mexico"—enhance the guitarist's strong influence, present throughout. The light session opens on the wings of Sprince's vibes and Tom Lippincott's eight-string guitar with the airy "Beyond The Clouds," with young Matt Vashlishan providing supportive soprano saxophone phrases. Vashlishan also plays alto saxophone and the EWI synthesizer on tunes including the spacious "On My Way." The album's slight Brazilian theme is revealed on "The Dance Has Just Begun," which features background vocals from Tony Cruz and Terezinha Valois in support of a splendid guitar solo from guest Gary Damanti.

Fittingly, the title track does not possess the overt intensity of a Brazilian carnival, as its samba-funk rhythm and straight-up melody are designed to reflect the mood of the aftermath of such an event. The Brazilian influence continues on "Partido Alto" and the balladic "Song For Brazil," highlighted by background vocals over delicate lines from Sprince, and a featured solo from flautist Jorge Pardo. Inspired by a midnight ferry from Montevideo to Buenos Aires, Argentina, "Adios, Buenos Aires" is a dark jazz tango, further revealing the disc's worldly flavor.

The light grooves wind down on "It's Not Fair," an expressive piece containing extended solos from Sprince over a bossa-influenced melody. The album closes with an arrangement of "Sueño Con Mexico" featuring percussive flair from Dwili Dewongy, who brings the bird whistle, bells and shakers to the fore with support from drummer Goran Rista.

It is important to note that After Carnival is not a smooth jazz album. Rather, it is a world jazz album that melds influences from Brazil and jazz fusion, producing an exciting new world beat mirroring the group's name, and forging a stellar album of new rhythms and colors worthy of exploration.

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