Erykah Badu - New Amerykah: Part II (Return of the Ankh)Universal / Island
So much for the three album in one year project, at least that was the plan Erykah Badu had in mind when she released “New Amerykah Part I” back in 2008. That was an ambitious goal to say the least. Fortunately “New Amerykah” contained enough quality material to keep heads nodding for months so all is forgiven. Besides a quality album shouldn’t be rushed and Erykah’s latest release “New Amerykah: Part II return of the Ankh” is a much stronger effort and well worth the wait Where “New Amerykah Part I was more of a digital effort, “Part II: Return of the Ankh” features live instrumentation that provides a more sonic, soulful feel. As usual, the production features top notch performers like James Poyser and Questlove . They crafted the funky yet sublime “Window Seat”. “You can’t turn me away (Get Munny)” will sound familiar considering that Erykah flips the beat used by the hip-hop group Junior Mafia. Both versions benefit from the Roy Ayers produced Sylvia Striplin classic. The late great J Dilla co-produced the track “Love” another funky yet laidback joint. On “Out of my mind, just in time” Erykah croons to a ten minute track that starts out with a melodic jazzy piano riff and then morphs into an organic breezy gem that serves as a fitting ending to a very satisfying disc. If you’ve been riding with Erykah all these years then you’ll certainly be pleased. If you just hoped aboard for the first time you’ll no doubt enjoy it as well.
Reg Dancy, 07/10
Esma Redzepova - Gypsy CarpetNetwork
Return of the gypsy Queen with her first recording for 8 years and she does not disappoint. This remarkable woman who has twice been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and who has adopted (with Stevo her late husband and the person who discovered her) 47 Roma orphans comes into her own on slower tracks like Javera Cumingan where she tells of the lament of an abandoned girl or the CD closer âTut ka Pajravanâ - âIâll get my own backâ . A true star.
Graham Radley, 07/07
Esperanza Spalding - Chamber Music Societywww.esperanzaspalding.com
A true artist isn’t content to drive along the same path. Once the bow has been tied on the last project, they’ve taken a new road in pursuit of new musical horizons. In the case of Esperanza Spalding she has shifted from the spirited funky “Esperanza” to the acoustic “Chamber Music Society” and the results are heartfelt compositions filled with superb performances. Because of its intimate nature, chamber music has been described as the music of friends and she has filtered this disc with an array of talented musicians such as Milton Nascimento, drummer Terri Lynn Carrington and others. The opener “Little Fly”, a poetic tune with strings that was inspired by artist William Blake. “Chacarera”, composed by pianist Leo Genovese, finds Esperanza singing in a vocalese style over the engaging melodies created by Genovese and cellist Dave Eggar. “Apple Blossom” is an emotive if not somber piece where Spalding’s vocal harmonies are interwoven with Nascimento’s baritone phrasing. “Inutil Paisagem” is a tender duet between Esperanza and Gretchen Parlato that captures their vocal dexterity. Parlato’s clever hand percussion playing intertwines beautifully with Spalding subtle bass riffs. You’re not going to find “Esperanza pt 2” within this recording but you will find a disc filled with warm and peaceful melodies that resonate within you. In addition they provide a snapshot of Spalding’s diverse talents.
Reg Dancy, 03/11
Esperanza Spalding - Esperanzawww.esperanzaspalding.com
It’s one thing to have a prolific voice on the bass but in the case of the multi-talented Esperanza Spalding, she can equally captivate you with her vocal chops as well. That is readily apparent on her release “Esperanza”, a sparkling project that fuses Latin, Brazilian and World music rhythms in a jazz formula. Esperanza arrived at Berklee college with much fanfare and soon became one of their youngest teachers there. However the desire to record a project with her personal stamp clearly outweighed the classroom and it’s easy to see why. Her disc opens with the melancholy “Ponta De Areia”, a tune originally penned by Milton Nascimento. The original version was a folk flavored tune but Spalding transforms it into a dreamy melodic gem. “I Adore You” is energetic Latin jazz piece that showcases her scatting prowess over a gorgeous piano melody. “Cuerpo Y Alma” (Body And Soul) finds Esperanza swinging in a bebop 5/4 beat while singing in Spanish with impressive results. With a recording as strong as this, the buzz surrounding Esperanza clearly has merit. It will be exciting to watch her career evolve and experience the fruits of her recordings along the way.
Reg Dancy, 03/11
Etran Finatawa - Desert CrossroadsRiverboat
From Wodaabe and Tuareg tribes but now based in Niger this follow up to ‘Introducing’ features several songs which deal with their desire to get back to the nomadic lifestyle of their roots. A raw edged recording style brings the desert blues to life in vivid fashion to create a moving and powerful medium for their message. Very good.
Graham Radley, 06/08
Eugene "Hideaway" Bridges - Eugene "Hideaway" BridgesArmadillo
His previous four CDs have been recorded with his full band but for this one heâs taken a more laid back approach to the blues with gospel and soul influences mixed in and recorded with friends and fellow musicians he has met on the road. Amongst the guests are Lucky Oceans from âAsleep At The Wheelâ who plays some superb pedal steel on three tracks while Ray Wylie Hubbard delivers some great slide guitar on 'I Can't Wait.' The full line up is Eugene "Hideaway" Bridges (bass guitar); Ian Moss (guitar); Ray Wylie Hubbard (slide guitar); Lucky Oceans (pedal steel guitar); Clayton Doley (Hammond b-3 organ); Robin Clayton (bass guitar); Declan Kelly (hand claps); Pat Manske (percussion).
Graham Radley, 07/07
Eva Be - Moving Without TravelingSonar Kollektiv
This little Reggae infused dubfest glides along through all manner of guests and is more typical of Ninja Tunes than of Sonar Kollektiv releases. One of those love it or hate it albums. For my special moments try skipping to 'Speakeasy' and 'Zerrdub' for maximum effect.
Steve Williams, 08/07
Ex-Wise Heads - Holding Up The SkyHard World
Third album from Ex-Wise Heads, Iâm not familiar with the previous two but this is a thoughtful, innovative release centred around Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree) and Geoff Leigh (Henry Cow) . The sound is one of rhythmically driven ambient, electro, jazzy, global interplay which moves you, chills you and comes up fresh each listen. I especially like âWinter Of Discontentâ with some great trumpet from Ian Dixon.
Graham Radley, 05/07
Exile - Dirty ScienceSound In Color
Sound in Color have been quiet in 2006 but have an amazing line-up for the rest of the year. For those who don't know, Exile has been around for over a decade as a member of Emanon and has also worked with Stones Throw artist Aloe Blacc, who features on "Dirty Science". Exile has produced some heavyweight beats and then hunted around to find the right vocalist for each of his productions. M.E.D. seems to be guesting on all manner of projects recently and turns out a corker here. Blu is maybe a name you've not heard before and has an album due on Sound in Color later this year, and judging by these tracks, it's gonna be interesting. All in all, Sound in Color deliver another cracking album.
Simon Harrison, 07/06