Friday, 29 January 2021

Gigi ‎– Gigi (2001)

Genre: Jazz, Folk, World, & Country
Format: CD
Label: Palm Pictures, Voice

01.   Gud Fella
02.   Mengedegna
03.   Tew Ante Sew
04.   Abay
05.   Bale Washintu
06.   Guramayle
07.   Sew Argeñ
08.   Aynama
09.   Kahn
10.   Zomaye
11.   Abet Wubet
12.   Nafekeñ
13.   Adwa

Vocals – Gigi
Accordion – Tony Cedras
Bass – Thomas Gobena
Drums, Percussion – Hamid Drake, Mikias Abebayehu
Drums, Tabla, Keyboards – Karsh Kale
French Horn – Mark Taylor
Trombone – Art Baron
Guitar – David Gilmore, Nicky Skopelitis, Zakki Jewad
Keyboards – Abegasu Shiota, Amina Claudine Myers, Dereje Mekonnen, Herbie Hancock
Percussion – Abdou M'Boup, Aiyb Dieng, Melaku Gelaw, Setegne Satenaw
Saxophone – Henry Threadgill, Pharoah Sanders, Wayne Shorter
Backing Vocals – Abonesh Adenew, Dawit Melesse, Hebest Tirunehe, Imani Uzuri, Mizanekristos Yohannes, Tigist Shibabaw
Producer, Bass, Guitar, Keyboards – Bill Laswell

There are essentially two schools of thought when it comes to world music: the purists who believe that ancient musical traditions must remain undiluted to survive, and the fusionists who believe that it is the ability of artists to adapt their cultural traditions to modern tastes that will allow them to survive. Though often blasted by traditionalists for his trademark world music collusions, bassist/producer Bill Laswell has done a remarkable job of straddling the lines dividing these two camps, working with world music favorites like the Master Musicians of Jajouka, Simon Shaheen, and Foday Muso Suso to concoct heady stylistic brews that update their respective traditions for 21st century audiences. Laswell's latest discovery is 27-year-old Ejigayehu "Gigi" Shibabaw, a stunning Ethiopian singer whose self-titled debut establishes her as one of Africa's most accomplished young artists. Her mellifluous vocals are backed by an impressive multicultural lineup that includes Laswell on bass; guitarist Nicky Skopelitis; saxophonists Wayne Shorter, Pharoah Sanders, and Henry Threadgill; and percussionists Aiyb Dieng and Karsh Kale. But the emphasis here is on Gigi's voice, which moves from soaring melodic passages to a breathy falsetto over songs that combine her native traditions with elements of funk, dub, soul, and West African and Indian sounds. From the exuberant buoyancy of "Gud Fella" to the syncopated urgency of "Aynama" to the beautifully soulful balladry of "Adwa," this is the rare debut that sounds like a fully formed artist, ready and eager for her time in the international music spotlight.
Bret Love / AllMusic

Guru ‎– Jazzmatazz Volume II: The New Reality (1995)

Genre: Hip Hop, Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Chrysalis, EMI, Capitol Records

01.   Intro (Light It Up) / Jazzalude I / New Reality Style
02.   Lifesaver
03.   Living In This World
04.   Looking Through Darkness
05.   Skit A (Interview) / Watch What You Say
06.   Jazzalude II / Defining Purpose
07.   For You
08.   Insert A (Menthal Relaxation) Medicine
09.   Lost Souls
10.   Insert B (The Real Deal) / Nobody Knows
11.   Jazzalude III / Hip Hop As A Way Of Life
12.   Respect The Architect
13.   Feel The Music
14.   Young Ladies
15.   The Traveler
16.   Jazzalude IV / Maintaining Focus
17.   Count Your Blessings
18.   Choice Of Weapons
19.   Something In The Past
20.   Skit B (Alot On My Mind) / Revelation

Engineer – Carlos Bess, Dennis Mitchell
Mastered By – Tony Dawsey
Co-producer, Arranged By, Mixed By – Guru.
Producer – Carlos Bess, Guru , Mark Sparks, Nikke Nicole, The Solsonics, True Master

The follow-up to the heavily acclaimed Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1. This album might not have quite as much jazz-rap power as the first volume did, but it's still quite good. Some of the big guns of jazz found their way into the album, including Branford Marsalis (who, of course, had already experimented with urban beats a bit with his Buckshot Lefonque project), Freddie Hubbard, Ramsey Lewis, and Kenny Garrett. Underground rapper Kool Keith (at this point still a member of the Ultramagnetics) also makes an appearance. Dancehall reggae princess Patra is included on a track, as are Chaka Khan and Me'Shell N'Degeocello; Jamiroquai helps out in another. In some ways, the personnel on this album may be slightly superior to the first outing, but the music also seems a tiny bit blander. Still, what makes the Jazzmatazz albums special is the live synthesis of jazz and rap. With Guru's vocals over the top of live jazz performers (as opposed the usual samples), interplay is facilitated between the two, and thus a whole new dimension is added to the fusion. For someone interested in jazz-rap in general, the first album is a higher priority (as would be Us3's albums, with extensive Blue Note sampling), but this album is still high on the list.
Adam Greenberg / AllMusic

Massacre ‎– Funny Valentine (1998)

Style: Avantgarde, Free Improvisation
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Tzadik

01.   Leaf Violence
02.   Down To Five A Day
03.   Lizard-skin Junk-mail
04.   Ladder
05.   South Orange Sunset
06.   Six-cylinder Sinister
07.   300 Days In The Vacant Lot
08.   Say Hey Willie
09.   Talk Radio
10.   Well-dressed Ripping Up Wood
11.   Further Conversations With White Arc

Bass – Bill Laswell
Drums – Charles Hayward
Guitar – Fred Frith
Mastered By – Allan Tucker
Recorded By – Robert Musso
Producer – Massacre 

In 1983, Bill Laswell's Celluloid label released a minor masterpiece by a downtown power trio called Massacre; the group consisted of Fred Frith on guitar, Laswell on bass and Fred Maher on drums. The album was called Killing Time, and it was a brilliant combination of quirky but composed avant-gardisms, experimental noise and post-punk funk. That album remains one of the great monuments of the downtown scene, right up there with A Taste of DNA and No New York. Fifteen years later, Frith and Laswell reunited (replacing Maher with Charles Hayward) for a second shot at the same magic, and didn't quite succeed. But that doesn't mean that Funny Valentine isn't great, just that it isn't quite as great as Killing Time. It opens on a weak note, with the sprawling and noisy but somehow anemic "Leaf Violence," then steadily improves. By the third track, Laswell and Hayward are laying down a propulsively swaying groove and letting Frith do his inimitable voodoo on top of it. "Ladder" flirts with a funk/reggae feel; "Talk Radio" and "Further Conversations with White Arc" show the sense of humor that animated so much of Killing Time. And "Well-Dressed Ripping Up Wood" seems to be, er, rock & roll. Overall, you wish there was a little more discipline and a little less length, but not much more discipline and not too much less length.
Rick Anderson / AllMusic