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Berta Moreno Afro-Jazz Soul Project: Tumaini

Troy Dostert By

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Berta Moreno Afro-Jazz Soul Project: Tumaini
Tenor saxophonist Berta Moreno released her promising debut, Little Steps, in 2017. It signaled her debt to forbears such as Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson, and displayed an impressive command of bop language. Tumaini, her engaging follow-up, moves in a rather different direction. Time well-spent in Kenya gave Moreno a wider focus for her compositions, as she adroitly melds jazz, R&B and Afro-Latin idioms into an enjoyable musical synthesis.

"Tumaini" is a Swahili word for "hope," and there is indeed a buoyant spirit that carries the album from the opener, "Karibu," onward. Moreno is helped by percussionist Franco Pinna, whose contributions enliven the ten cuts, electric bassist Maksim Perepelica and drummer Raphaël Pannier who together exhibit a slinky smoothness that belies the sophistication of the music. And pianist Manuel Valera, who appeared on Little Steps, is back to contribute his trademark impassioned flourishes. But Guinea-Bissau vocalist Alana Sinkëy may be the most essential component here, as her nimble stylistic range allows her to move from the pop-jazz of "Beauty of the Slum" and "Mandhari" to the tracks more heavily indebted to African forms—such as the Afrobeat-centered "Afrika" and the rhythmically shape-shifting "Karibu."

Moreno ably displayed her formidable chops on her debut, so she has less to prove here. She is content to let the music develop without the need to turn the album into a blowing session. Fortunately, the band possesses the innate chemistry that gives life to pieces such as "Kutembea," with its subtle Afro-Cuban flavor, and "Hope," a well-crafted tune that floats along on a sturdy yet supple foundation, inspiring Moreno's most memorable solo turn on the album, both lyrical and emotionally charged.

Moreno revealed herself to be a more than capable interpreter of the mainstream jazz tradition on her debut, so it is to her credit that she has let her creative impulses roam toward the African continent on Tumaini. It is anyone's guess where she will venture next, but the results should be rewarding.

Track Listing

Karibu; Afrika; The Beauty of the Slum; Dance; Mandhari I; Mandhari II; Hope Intro; Hope; Christine; Kutembea.

Personnel

Berta Moreno: saxophone, tenor; Manuel Valera: piano; Maksim Perepelica: bass; Raphaël Pannier: drums; Franco Pinna: percussion; Alana Sinkëy: voice / vocals.

Album information

Title: Tumaini | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Tiger Turn Records

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