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Nicola Conte: Let Your Light Shine On

Chris M. Slawecki By

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One of the best parts of Let Your Light Shine On is how it plucks out musical threads from throughout the galaxy (more on that later) and knits them together into truly groovy, soulful cloth. But music is only one of many real good things this set has going on.

Light is the first album by internationally-renown Italian DJ, composer, guitarist, bandleader and producer Nicola Conte for Germany's esteemed jazz label MPS Records. "For me, when it comes to European labels, MPS has always been leading the way," Conte explains. "'Jazz Meets the World on MPS,' that was their motto. It wasn't about exploiting trends, it was about genuine artistic expression."

Recorded in Conte's hometown of Bari (Italy) and in Johannesburg (South Africa), Light orbits around Conte's Spiritual Galaxy, a truly global ensemble comprising musicians from Italy, Sweden, and Finland, joined on this recording by soloists Theo Croker (trumpet) and Logan Richardson (alto sax) from the US, and British singer Zara McFarlane, with several local musicians jumping into the Johannesburg sessions.

This colorfully talented troupe shines their collective Light on American, African, European and intergalactic soul, weaving instrumental and vocal threads into a powerfully peaceful state of music and mind. "You could call it spiritual or cosmic Afro-jazz. I could also agree with calling it Afro-soul," Conte suggests.

The opening "Uhuru Na Umoja" and subsequent traditional "Ogun" quickly demonstrates this band's Western dexterity with African culture, as their keyboards, guitars, bass and drums all link up and lock down with the vocals in masterful design. An instrumental "Mystic Revelation of the Gods" percolates Afro-beat like rich, dark, steaming hot coffee: Flute flutters above like a songbird overseeing ensemble horns that keep pinwheeling around the drummer's circular rhythm, which echoes drummer Michael Shrieve's jazz drum sound in Santana's Latin-rock context.

"Space Dimensions" opens up a window into the musical alternative universe of Sun Ra: As the breathless female vocal drifts in and out like floating clouds, the spacey lyrics naturally connect Sade with Sun Ra through the music's structure and lush production and nurture an organic flower of truly global and truly beautiful music. The follow-on two-minute drum jam "Tribes from the Unknown" extend Spiritual Galaxy's connection to Sun Ra's Arkestra.

And oh this title track: A limber groove simply but soulfully repeating the refrain, "Let your light shine on...Let us live in peace..." There is something genuinely yet indescribably beautiful about this music—the words, the instrumentation, and the vocals. Even the best writing/words couldn't do this one justice. Please just listen.

"We are connected by a higher force," Conte mused upon this set's release. "I don't want to sound like a hippie, but perhaps the light comes out of the universe. At the same time, it also comes out of ourselves."

Track Listing: Uhuru Na Umoja; Ogun; Cosmic Peace; Universal Rhythm; Mystic Revelation Of The Gods; Let Your Light Shine On; Space Dimensions; Tribes From The Unknown; Me Do Wo; Essence Of The Sun; Love Power; Afro Black.

Personnel: Nicola Conte: guitars; Bridgette Amofah: lead and backing vocals (1, 3, 4, 9, 11, 12); Carolina Bussico: lead and backing vocals (1, 3, 7, 12); Zara McFarlane: lead and backing vocals (2); Zoe Modica: lead and backing vocals (6, 10); Gianluca Petrella: trombone, Mini Moog; Logan Richardson: alto saxophone; Magnus Lindgren: tenor saxophone, flutes; Theo Croker: trumpet; Pietro Lussu: piano. Vox organ, Wurlitzer electric piano, Fender Rhodes; Luca Alemanno: double bass, electric bass; Teppo Makynen: drums, percussion; Abdissa Assefa: congas, percussion; Tommaso Cappellato: drums (5); Nduduzo Makhathini: Fred Rhodes; Tumi Mogorossi: drums; Tlale Kakhene: percussion (8); Seby Burgio: organ (9, 11); Mike Rubini: baritone saxophone (9).

Title: Let Your Light Shine On | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: MPS

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