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Afro-Cubism-Afro-Caribbeanism? Crossover, jazz-saturated world music? World music? Almost but not quite mainstream jazz, filtered through a Surinamese aquifer? We've got a small problem here finding a category for Fra Fra Sound's Kultiplex.
The Fra Fra Sound's septet members hail from the Netherlands, Surinam, the Antilles and Venezuela, a Euro-Caribbean mix full of bright colors and churning rhythms influenced by Surinamese kaseko, kawena, and winti, as well as several African styles of sound. Throw in a dollop of American jazz, and you've an upbeat amalgam that sounds simultaneously foreign and familiar, the way the South African Zulu jive – in all its ebullient glory – sounds on an initial encounter.
Fra Fra Sound is primarily an ensemble experience, but there are, throughout, fine solo slots by trumpeter/flugelhornist Michael Simon and tenor sax man Efraim Trujillo. But the focus is sharp on the collective experience, underscored by the always percolating Caribbean percussion flow of danceable, irresistible, infectious rhythms.
And incidentally – though it shouldn't matter – Kultiplex features great cover art, a bright square/rectangle geometry full of odd bright colorations that somehow captures the spirit of the music of Fra Fra sound.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.