There's no rule for pinpointing the exact spot where a group goes from group to institution. If you have to ask whether a certain name has reached that point, that probably means the answer is nobut if we're talking about a widely loved ensemble with a 47-year history, it should be a good bet that they've made it and then some. The Orchestra Baobab may have been inactive for one stretch of time since forming in 1970, but nobody will hold that against them here, especially based on the vitality they show with Tribute to Ndouga Dieng.
That vitality is especially pronounced in light of the band losing a vital voice in late 2016. The titular tribute makes a regrettable circumstance for the Afro-Cuban outfit's first release since Made in Dakar (World Circuit, 2007)Dieng's singing had been a staple of the band's sound since their earliest days, and the feeling is fittingly similar yet different with his son Alpha Dieng stepping up. Even with an inevitable lamentation in spots, though, the overall tone is one of rousing celebrationwhich really makes the best tribute they could offer.
The sounds of Senegal are represented with a newly prominent presence of kora throughout, the twanging of harp strings beautifully intertwined with Rene Sowatche's dynamic sunny guitar tones. Meanwhile, the South American half of the band's primary equation is filled in with a triple-horn line at home with creole and Cuban jazz. The mix doesn't sound like a fusion of elements so much as a natural complement of parts that have always gone together. Revisiting the samba piece "Sey" from the '70s (complete with guest spot by old colleague Thione Seck), swaying through the sumptuous tango of "Natalia" or making beautifully classic West African voice harmonies through the likes of "Magnokouto," the players are always willing to add each proper part to the whole without any need to stand out.
Any seasoned ensemble could turn out a solid professional performance in their sleepand many dobut this Orchestra is a long way from coasting on routine. They devote this Tribute to Dieng and the music itself with a spirit that's ageless, remaining full of sparks and always willing to cross borders in search of something new.
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.
Get more of a good thing
Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.