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The Vampires: The Vampires Meet Lionel Loueke

Mark Corroto By

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As we mature as music listeners, the need to select a piece of music as your summer theme song, go-to party album, or road trip recording fades. Just like the childhood requirement to designate who is your best friend, we don't wear the grooves of records out these days. Let's, for old times sake, choose a recording to be our favorite companion to mark a season.

The Vampires meet Lionel Loueke is just such a recording. Just as Herbie Hancock's "Rockit," John Coltrane's "My Favorite Things," and Ramsey Lewis' "The In Crowd" championed a spirit, this disc makes the complex sound quite simple.

The Vampires, an Australian combo working for the past 10 years, invited West African guitarist Lionel Loueke, to record on their fifth album. The music written by saxophonist Jeremy Rose and trumpeter Nick Garrett, pulls together musical threads from dub/reggae, Afro-Cuban, Ethiopian, and Gamelan musics. Let's call it fusion, a fusion sans rock. Loueke's contribution of guitar and vocals, as on his recordings with Joe Lovano, Esperanza Spalding, Kenny Barron, and Nate Smith, adds a touch of his signature Benin, West African genuineness. A world music sound last heard in the ensembles of the late Joe Zawinul. The disc opens and closes with "Endings & Beginnings Pt. I & II," both tender nostalgic pieces fixed by Loueke's acoustic guitar and voice. Between these pillars, The Vampires deliver some beautiful melodies. "Had Love" is bathed in gentle bass clarinet and appeasing trumpet. The reggae lines of "Freedom Song" are dance-ably infectious, as is the Ethio-jazz of "Bendalong" and "Brand New." The music is chock full of irrepressible joy, a commodity in short supply these days.

Track Listing: Jeremy Rose: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Nick Garbett: trumpet; Lionel Loueke: acoustic guitar, electric guitar, vocals; Jonathan Zwartz: bass; Danny Fischer: drums; Alex Masso: drums, cajon, bongos, pandeiro, wood block, cowbells, shakers.

Personnel: Endings & Beginnings Pt. I; Hard Love; Freedom Song; Green Green Green; Bendalong; Torta Salata; Suck a Seed; Ubud Bubble; Brand New; Endings & Beginnings Pt. II.

Title: The Vampires Meet Lionel Loueke | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Earshift Records

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