Having relocated to America from Nigeria in 2000 to pursue advanced studies in mathematics, vocalist Lorens Chuno was repeatedly drawn back into the music of his homeland, and found a novel method of fusing it with American jazz. Chuno, now an established university math professor, delved into his artistic persona in 2008, releasing "Highlife, Soul, and Ecstasy" that year, and "My House" in 2012. Naija Rhythm Affair, NYC, is a sophisticated blend of original compositions set in a progressive cosmopolitan format, with strong West- African leanings.
Chuno's forté is his remarkable vocal qualities, enhanced by his ability to establish and maintain a sense of groove. "Come My Way," starts the record off, and a unique syncopated singing orientation is evident in the arrangement. He digs into his Igbo heritage on "Nuru Onum," with its distinctive ¾ cadence, sung as a plea for greater wisdom and understanding, in his native tongue. The soukous rhythm enlivens "Today," praising a life lived in the moment; while "Nwayo," draws again from the Igbo tradition, the interesting guitar of Albino Mbie, highlighted amidst the indigenous tempo.
The unmistakable afrobeat presence of "Mr. Sabi," features superb tenor sax work by Michael Eaton, bringing an air of authenticity to the palpitating rhythm. Chuno slips into a smooth vocal vein on "Do Not Call," a blue tale of letting go and not looking back. Showing a grasp of various influences, "Easy Busy," flows between the Brazilian bossa and standard jazz swing, complete with improvised scatting. Chuno sits solo at the piano for "Unu Etete Go," a melancholy ballad performed as if lost in nostalgia and remembrance. It is on this quiet track that his vocal dexterity comes to the forefront, a natural vibrato revealing a controlled emotion. In a dramatic change of course, "Wait!" takes on the cruelty of police brutality and the lasting effect of the racial tensions existing in America.
Lorens Chuno represents the new generation of Africans who adopted their culture into the American musical mainstream, and vice versa, contributing to the overall observance of jazz as a thriving art form. Jazz has course been rooted in the experiences of the African-Americans; Chuno plays into that narrative by continuing to explore and expand upon personal inspirations and situations, nurturing this ever-evolving music into a new dawn.
Come My Way; Nuru Onum; Today; Changing; Nwayo; Mr. Sabi; Do Not
Call; Easy Busy; Unu Etete Go; Wait !
Lorens Chuno: vocal, piano, percussion; John Gray: bass; Michael Vitali:
drums; Michael Eaton: tenor sax; Albino Mbie: guitar.