The French-Jewish-Guadeloupean saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Barta background and name like that has world music written all over itpresented his Sone Ka-La (Emarcy) in 2007, after stints with D'Angelo's Voodoo touring band, Roy Hargrove's Crisol and Rh Factor, Erykah Badu, Meshell Ndegeocello, all influences that helped him craft a hybridization of Afro-Caribbean rhythms and melodies inspired by Gwoka traditions of his native island of Guadeloupe. Gwoka is a music born on the western Atlantic Island in response, in part, to the miseries inflicted by slavery, drawing on rhythmic traditions of Africa mixed with French and native sounds. Evolving out of an atmosphere of evil and atrocity, it is something at a thumbing of the nose at the greed-steeped powers of the slave trade era, a response to venal ugliness with life affirming joy and a vivacious ebullience of spirit.
While the trans-Altantic slave trade happened in past centuries, Schwarz-Bart has taken the music that grew out of it, backed it with a modern drum kit and paired this with the old time Guadeloupean ka drum and modernized and spiced the mix with electric keyboards and the use of effects pedals on the saxophone. But the biggest asset here is Malika Tirolien's voice, playing the part of the second horn in the mix, infusing the ensemble sound with a soulfulness and a distinctive, joyous, of-the-earth spirituality.
This is a production as skillfully renderedfeaturing a marvelous tight-loose dynamicand as polished as a late 1960s Motown Records session, and as modern-sounding as a mid-to-late 1970s session by that same label. The music is colorful, danceable, aspirational, off-the-beaten-path and as beautifully exotic as sound can be.
Pa Gade; Mende; Konk A Lambi; Ron Jack; Love Will Win; Zero Gravity; Ami Bongo; First Light; New
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