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Album Review

Gyedu-Blay Ambolley: Gyedu-Blay Ambolley & Hi-life Jazz

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Gyedu-Blay Ambolley: Gyedu-Blay Ambolley & Hi-life Jazz
This is reportedly the 35th album from Ghanaian singer/rapper/tenor saxophonist Gyedu-Blay Ambolley. But although he has toured Europe and the US extensively, he remains relatively unknown in what we call "the West." It is a situation that ought to change, and if there was any justice in the world, this is the album that would do it.

Ambolley is a leading modern exponent of high-life (or hi-life) jazz, a genre that grew out of the so-called "palm wine" music of the West African dockside and blended with other styles from Africa, Europe and America to become the distinctive sound it is today. You can hear it, too, in the infectious rhythms and harmonized horns of contemporary London bands like Kokoroko. This album, Ambolley's third with the German label Agogo, contains a tempting mixture of original tunes and hi-life interpretations of "A Love Supreme," "Footprints," "Round Midnight," and "All Blues." Some eighteen musicians appear at various points throughout the album.

There's no room for gloom or introspection: light, danceable rhythms, driven along by guitar and a whole crew of percussionists, turn even dark material like "Round Midnight"—here sung by Ambolley in one of Ghana's 80 languages—into something joyful, whilst somehow retaining the spirit of the original. The band's version of "All Blues" is a further example of how a hoary old standard can be reinterpreted so effectively that you begin to think you have never heard it before.

The music is community-minded and free of bombast, and the solos are evenly shared around the band. This is very much Ambolley's project, but at the same time it is a true collaboration, with several of the musicians lending a hand with production, and just about everybody chipping in on percussion at different times.

Agogo specializes in music from Africa and South America, and there are two free sample compilations to download via this page.

Track Listing

Sankumagye Love Life; Yekor Ye A Yeaba; Enyidado; Love Supreme; Footprints; Round Midnite; Asamansudo Groove; All Blues; Ambolley Special.

Personnel

Gyedu-Blay Ambolley: saxophone, tenor; Isaacs Karikari: keyboards; Peter Mensah Kadesh: drums; George Abban: guitar; Kuuku Antonio: trumpet; Colonel Faat: saxophone, tenor; Shikome: percussion; Rob Berends: saxophone, baritone; Steven Smith: trumpet; Michael Session: saxophone, alto; John Rangel: piano; Josman Mbela: drums; Al Threats: bass, electric; Marcel Adjibi: congas.

Additional Instrumentation

Tracks 1-4, 6, 7, 9: Gyedu-Blay Ambolley: tenor saxophone, percussion, vocals; Isaacs Karikari: keyboards; Peter Mensah Kadesh: drums, percussion, backup vocals; Charles O.Donkor: bass guitar, guitar (3), backup vocals; George Abban: guitar; Owura Kay: guitar solo (4); Dominic Quachie: guitar solo (9); Kuuku Antonio: trumpet, flugelhorn, backup vocals; Colonel Faat: tenor saxophone solos; Shikome: congas, backup vocals, percussion; Rob Berings: baritone saxophone, additional keyboards, percussion; Rob de Lange: wah wah guitar. Tracks 5, 8: Gyedu-Blay Ambolley tenor saxophone, percussion, vocals. Steven Smith: flugelhorn; Michael Session: alto saxophone; John Rangel: piano; Josman Mbela; drums; Al Threats: bass; Marcel Adjibi: congas.

Album information

Title: Gyedu-Blay Ambolley And Hi-Life Jazz | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Agogo Records

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