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U-Nam – The Essential Collection

August 19, 2017

Aug. 18, 2017

While we seldom, if ever, offer reviews of “best of” collections, guitarist U-Nam’s latest release The Essential Collection bears repeating a quick analysis of some of the grooves offered here and does also offer two completely new and hot tracks.

Drawn from numerous previous projects, the majority of tracks here should be familiar to U-Nam fans and should certainly capture new fans, as well. Included are tracks from his albums Back From the 80s, Surface Level, C’est Le Funk, Unanimity, and Weekend in L.A. (A Tribute to George Benson). If you missed picking up any of these gems, tracks like the romping lead track, a cover of The Crusaders’ classic “Street Life,” the supercharged, party-hearty “Going for Miles,” “Something’s Up,” “Throwback Kid” (definitely one of my faves), “Groove Paradise” (another of my faves), the hot and steamy groove “Shine On,” and the powerful “Back In Style (yep, another fave of mine – but then, so many are!) should convince you to grab this album to catch up (at least, to some decent extent). Read More

Johannes Linstead – Midnight Rhumba

November 4, 2014

Nov. 4, 2014

The very versatile and diverse Latin guitarist Johannes Linstead again presents us with the wonderful nuances and exoticism of his Latin-focused music. Here on Midnight Rhumba,* the Johannes Linstead CDimmensely popular and renowned guitarist explores the allure of tasteful European and Latin American musical delicacies, as well as giving an impressive nod to the Caribbean island sound as he embraces reggae and calypso styles.

As melodic and fluid as always, Linstead’s music here speaks for itself. Living part of the year in the Dominican Republic (where several tracks of this album were recorded), he acknowledges the influences of the culture and its land.  As he says, “When you visit the warmer climes, especially all the Latin countries on both sides of the Atlantic, you encounter people who visit these places specifically to escape their regular lives, to enjoy an exotic and relaxing locale, and to renew a festive spirit.” Read More

Ciro Hurtado – Ayahuasca Dreams*

August 1, 2014

August 1, 2014

Here’s a wonderfully exotic and stimulating Latin/World/New Age project from Peruvian guitarist Ciro Hurtado. Perhaps not readily recognizable in contemporary jazz circles, the Ciro Hurtadomusic of this guitarist is captivating, often soothing, and always beautiful – whether up-tempo or taken down to a mystical whisper of beauty, love, and color. So, listen openly, and dare to dream the dream that this music presents…a dream of majesty and of being caught up in a musical world with a marvelous panoramic view of its irresistible landscape.

Certainly no novice or newcomer to the music scene, Hurtado has released eight albums under his own name. He is also the funding member and currently the musical director of the multi-national band Huayucaltiah (pronounced why-you-call-TEE-ah) which includes members from Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, and the United States. Read More

Roxanna – Exotica*

July 18, 2014

July 18, 2014

“Music should bring pleasure, it should be elegant and relaxing. It’s all about friendship, pleasure, romance, love, and beauty.”  This philosophy voiced by the beautiful emerging Roxannavocalist Roxanna must have played a huge part in producer Mark Portmann’s decision to work with her on this very pleasing debut project entitled Exotica.

With a great mix of pop and World with a Latin flair, Roxanna offers 13 tracks of dreamy melodies and exceptional vocals that are bound to entice. Many of the tracks are a commentary on her personal experiences with life and love, and she offers her soul-warming covers of a couple of classics (The Hollies’ “The Air That I Breathe” and Lionel Richie’s “Hello.” Read More

Marqueal Jordan — Catalyst

November 6, 2013

Nov. 5, 2013

Saxophonist Marqueal Jordan carries a really cool distinction about him. He just happens to have worked with and appeared with many marqueal jordanof the who’s who in this biz, including keyboard wiz/producer Brian Culbertson and vocalist Jill Scott.  Offering up some solid chops on this solo release entitled Catalyst, he makes it clear why he’s appealed to Culbertson and others.

Along with silky smooth and infectious jazz/R&B melodies, the saxman brings some serious vocal chops with him, as well (check out “Between the Sheets,”  “When You Smile,” and “Love So Beautiful”). There’s even a small bit of rap for flavor. Read More

Nocy – Live at the Bellagio

June 26, 2013

June 25, 2013

Flamenco guitarist Nocy (who also plays other styles) likes to say that “If your heart is touched, my music has spoken.” Here with his first live album called Live at the Bellagio (due for release on June 30), it’s not hard at all to feel the touch of many of these tunes.Nocy Live

From the melodic up-tempo opening track (“Amor Mi Amor”), you know that it’s time for the fiesta. As a show of true eclecticism, the guitarist then launches full blast into a raw 12-bar blues tune (“Blues 66”) that is as much fiery as it is anything else.

From smooth Brazilian flavors to the irresistible flame of flamenco, the entire CD breathes exoticism. Among my faves would be the lead track, “Blues 66,” “Arabica,” the cozy and romantic “Imagine You’re In Love” with the lovely vocals of Felice Hernandez (in fact, her vocals are laced throughout the album, adding some additional color to Nocy’s already colorful guitar), “La Vida,” “Noce Time,” and the fiery “Ya Madame,” just to name a few.

Nocy says that this recording is a completely unedited one. You get that sense as you are transported to the Bellagio and witness all of the beauty and nuances of live recording.

As you can imagine, this album is full of life, romanticism, and electricity – qualities that keep Nocy’s music so very enticing.  The mostly up-tempo tunes here have what it takes to keep hearts racing and feet on the dance floor.

From his debut release years ago to this current live CD, this is one guitarist who clearly knows how to effectively use phrasing, melodies, blindingly fast riffs, and catchy hooks to punctuate his wonderful  brand of music. – Ronald Jackson

David Arkenstone & Charlee Brooks — Loveren

May 22, 2013

May 22, 2013

To me. some of the most alluring and beautiful music in the world (outside of my obvious loves) is Celtic, New Age, neo-classical, and World music. One of the well-regarded icons in this David Arkenstonefield is composer/producer/multi-instrumentalist David Arkenstone. His new release, Loveren, is another masterpiece that I’m sure is headed for yet another GRAMMY nomination.

On this journey, he features the golden-voiced Charlee Brooks and a full orchestra. Featuring Brooks turns out to be one of the best things Arkenstone could have done. Her celestial, all-enthralling, and lilting voice carries you on gossamer wings through the wonderful world and imagination of this 3-time GRAMMY-nominated master of sound and mood.

Loveren is based on an original story commissioned by Arkenstone who, by the way, is celebrating his 25th year as a recording artist.

There is so very much to the Arkenstone story. It’s an understatement to say that he has done quite well. To learn more about him, I invite you to visit www.davidarkenstone.com.

Focusing on this moving, touching, shaping latest project, Arkenstone & Brooks begin – where else? – at the beginning with the lovely “Origins.” They gently escort us though a world of enchantment, silky veils, and melody…plenty of melody.

Beyond “Origins” lie such light and tasteful tracks as “The Forbidden Sea,””Luminara,”  “Sessa Nulma,” “Lost,”  and one of the most hypnotically melodic tracks I’ve heard in a while, “Slip Away,” presented by the dreamy and impassioned voice of Brooks. This tune alone is reason enough to grab a copy of this album. So full of the warmth and caress of the message and story Arkenstone & Brooks set out to tell.  However, you will find so much more to love about this album.

Arkenstone considers this “one of my best in many ways.” No argument here. – Ronald Jackson

Lawson Rollins – Full Circle

May 22, 2013

May 22, 2013

I stand convinced that, in order to be a truly effective Latin or flamenco guitarist, one must be somewhat well-travelled. Just take a look at the world travels of Jesse Cook, Ottmar Liebert, and Johannes Linstead. All are great guitarists with enormous vision. Well, add to that list, guitarist Lawson Rollins who always brings a refreshing pLawson Rollinserspective to his music and transfers that perspective to his fans. The guitarist now brings us what could be considered a commentary on his travels and music: His latest release entitled Full Circle.

Rollins brings to light the beauty of all the world as he offers World-influenced gems here while never relinquishing the Latin flair that yours truly has come to know and love so well. Rollins says, “’Full Circle’ is somewhat of a return to my roots in a sense, with the focus shifting to a sound that is more centered and grounded in the instrument I know best—the nylon string Spanish guitar. I was determined and indeed excited to create a cohesive, guitar-focused album. I had to reign in my instinct to apply layer upon layer of sound to any given track. That’s not to say that ‘Full Circle’ does not have some adventurous musical rides, but the heart of the album can be found in concise musical statements…’Full Circle’ is perhaps the most accurate, pointed expression of my guitar style and approach to melody and songcraft to date.”  Personally, I have always felt that Rollins’ approach to melody and songcraft have been dead-on, but, of course, being the perfectionist that he clearly illustrates that he is, who can argue with the man’s assessment?

This powerful work and the beginning of the circle starts with a rich and melodic rumba called “Momentum” that immediately captures and brings the listener to that point of anticipation of the next track …and the next…and the next. By tossing in an exotic touch of Japanese music, Rollins ensures that the combination is simply irresistible. On its heels is another lesson in Spanish exoticism called “Point of Attraction.” Full of beauty and structured so meticulously, its call is almost hypnotic.

“Pursuit” picks up the rumba pace, and we dance on…atop the wings of Rollins’ vivid and very colorful imagination and musical ingenuity.

A stop in Brazil brings a pair of bossa nova goodies in “Flight” and “Bloom,” while “Serpent’s Tale” takes us and the Latin vibe farther into the World influence. The combination is wonderfully tasteful.

Perhaps my favorite track is “Gone From Here,” an 8-minute riveting piece of melodic art that finds  Rollins on electric guitar, has blinding riffs and a rock-like feel toward the end where there exists a gripping and stirring crescendo.  A masterful demonstration.

Nimble-fingered with lightning speed and possessing a full grasp of the cultures of the world as voiced through his guitar, Lawson Rollins wears his captivating music like a second skin. – Ronald Jackson

Terra Guitarra — Dragonfly

May 4, 2013

May 4, 2013

This nuevo flamenco-based project called Dragonfly from guitarists Bruce Hecksel and Julie Patchouli –aka Terra Guitarra — has a really nice flair to it that can and probably Terre Guitarrawill capture and hold your attention for the duration of the album.

From the enticing and rhythmic lead track, “Janvier” onward, you are treated to much diversity. While the first few tracks are clearly Latin-influenced, the duo ventures out around the world to create a cornucopia of brilliance and sound. As Hecksel says, “…Julie and I have immersed ourselves in world music and global ethnic folk so the Nuevo flamenco style evolved very naturally for us. People from all over the world come up to us at our performances and tell us how they hear the music culture represented in Terra Guitarra, be it Greek, Russian, Spanish, Italian, Columbian, or any number of other countries.”  Yes, this offering of pure aural delight certainly proves that the pair truly wanted to share its cultural experiences through its music.

There is a fascinating story behind many of the selections on this album. In fact, the very theme represents “a spiritual journey of personal exploration and discovery,” explains Patchouli. With roots spanning punk and folk rock, it has obviously been an interesting journey to say the least.

The “map” of this project is pretty clear. For the first few tracks, you witness some very melodic, unadulterated nuevo flamenco grooves. Later on in the CD, the diverse World appeal begins to make its bold and telling appearance with such tunes as “Danu” and “Discovery.”

Not noted for an abundance of cover tunes, the duo also offers up a very creative and imaginative cover of the film theme from one of the James Bond thrillers, “You Only Live Twice.”

Dragonfly is the fourth CD from Terra Guitarra. With a style so full of flavor and charm, my guess is that you can count on more. – Ronald Jackson

Note: At the time of posting, this album was not available via Amazon. However, you can find it with music samples on CDbaby.com by clicking on the CD image above.

Arun Shenoy — Rumbadoodle

May 4, 2013

May 4, 2013

With strings, loads of spirit, and quality songwriting, GRAMMY-nominated producer/songwriter Arun Shenoy shakes it up pretty well on his most appealing World musiArun Shenoyc debut release Rumbadoodle. If nothing else, looking down at a CD in front of you with that title should drive your curiosity to pick it up and pop it in your player. Doing so will produce for you some very interesting results, I’m sure.

Shenoy grabs various elements of World music influences and wraps them around a rumba flamenco theme that is most prevalent. Rumbadoodle is an album chock full of rich melodies, the adept phrasing of instruments, solid, happy rhythms, and little surprises such as the rock vibe found on “Rock and Rigmarole”and “Blue Sky Happiness” (both “Part I” & “Part II”).  In other words, this album has personality.

In another twist, “Sleepy Town” takes a turn farther east, and “Wanderlust in Keys” straddles both eastern and Latin worlds in a clever merger between the two.  Shenoy had to truly be in “happy town” as he reviewed how sweetly all of this came together.

Shenoy wraps it all up with a two-minute finale called “Rhythm of the Sun,” which has a bass line that resembles the rock group Electric Light Orchestra’s “Evil Woman.”

All of this music breathes. It exhales the air of newness, innovativeness, imagination, and exoticism. The world travels about which Shenoy talks (“Recorded almost entirely live across the globe, this record is an exploratory journey”) have rewarded the producer with a wealth of ideas that he shares here with listeners.

If you enjoy World music, this handsome piece of work will certainly appeal to you. If you’re new to the genre, Shenoy makes sure that you will want to return for more. I surely will. – Ronald Jackson