The decade old Australian five piece The Vampires, fronted by dueting brass players Jeremy Rose and Nick Garbett, sought out the rising Beninese guitar prodigy Lionel Loueke for their ambitious fifth outing The Vampires Meet Lionel Loueke. With the addition of Loueke's virtuoso playing and singular guitar tone to the soothing mix of ethnic-world-influenced music, written by Rose and Garbett, seemingly generic compositions grow into exotic and enticing performances that exude positive vibrations of a very rare energy.
From reggae-driven "Freedom Song" to the Afro-Cuban "Green, Green, Green" and ethio-jazz headbanger "Bendalong," trumpet and sax present powerfully catchy and simple melodies framed in a rich variety of rhythmical accompaniement. The elements truly highlighting the singularity of this record lie in the whimsical little twists shaping the main melodies and the remarkably tight chemistry of the six musicians presentwhich is certainly not a given considering this being Lionel Loueke's first featured recording with the band after only a short collaborating period. But his presence and contributions seem as natural as ever, much like his part in 2016's supergroup release AZIZA. Yet, unlike his input there, The Vampires Meet Lionel Loueke finds him in an even more ornamenting role of rhythmical nature than the role of a virtuoso soloist. Integrating himself with subtleness, Louke finds little spaces which he elegantly fills with much thought, while Rose and Garbett lead the pieces with intimate and tender dialogues. The highly percussive drumming by Danny Fischer (at times further emphasized by the support of percussionist Alex Masso) conforms smoothly to composition and arrangement, neither halting nor distracting the picture as a whole.
The one essential component further encouraging this sophisticated yet exciting oeuvre lies within the wonderful and exciting production, which can be attributed to the minds of producer Lloyd Swanton and sound engineer Tim Whitten. The room is layed out with remarkably felicitious depth and a natural stereo image, combination with further delay and reverb effects enabling a superordinate dimension in which the soloists flourish.
By augmenting the quintet with the addition of Lionel Loueke, The Vampires have turned what would have otherwise been a "sweet" sounding record into a festive danceable and at times even rocking venture.
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.
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.
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