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Francis Jacob and the Flying Saucers: Side-By-Side

Dan McClenaghan By

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Call Francis Jacob a musical globetrotter. The guitarist was raised in Geneva, Switzerland, studied at Berklee in Boston, moved to Brazil in 1989 to study music there, then relocated to New York in 1991. And with Side-By-Side, he's crafted a two-sided world fusion sound driven by African rhythms.

The set relies on one of the more interesting concepts I've heard: seven original tunes (plus one extra, with no match), each played in both an electric and acoustic versions, wisely laid out not in the common reissue format—where different takes of the same number are played back to back—but mixed up: electric/accoustic/electric/acoustic.

The different versions are decribed on the CD cover as "intimately acoustic" and "vibrantly electric." Fair enough, but I'd give both sides of the compositional coin both of those adverb tags. The electric versions maintain a decided intimacy, with an extraordinary flow of rhythm, featuring four percussionists: drummer Harvey Wirht (of Either/Orchestra fame), Gilmar Gomes, Alioune Faye and Kofo the Wonderman, working a bunch of percussion instruments: shakers, hand drums, caxixi, cow bell, djembe, wood blocks, agogopandero, timbalescajon, derbek, udu, congas, triangle, bamboo blocks, etc. The acoustic versions feature Gregoire Maret's sweet-sounding harmonica work alongside Jacob's nylon-string guitar, anchored by the distinctive rhythm sound of Satoshi Takeishi (on a variety of instruments) and bassist Stomu Takeishi.

It's hard to pin this world music vibe down to any specific geography. Side-By-Side is an intricate, laid-back, cooly simmering ensemble recording, on both sides of the coin.

Track Listing: Children (acoustic); May Song (electric); Mon Ane (acoustic); Blues (electric); Pacific Vibes (acoustic); Children (electric); Paul (acoustic); Mon Ane (electric); Blues (acoustic); Paul (electric); On the Other Side (acoustic); Pacific Vibes (electric); On Your Steps acoustic); On Your Steps (electric); Playing Hookey (electric).

Personnel: Francis Jacob: guitar; Azouhouni Adou: keys; Aaron Heick: alto saxophone; Mamadou Ba: electric bass; Harvey Wirht: drums; Gilmar Gomes: Brazilian percussion; Alioune Faye: djembe, sabar, vocals; Kolo the Wonderman: talking drum; Stomu Takeishi: bass; Sato Takeishi: percussion; Gregoire Maret: harmonica; Gretchen Parlato: vocal.

Title: Side-By-Side | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Self Produced


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