Perceptive Travel World Music Reviews
August 2016 - By Laurence Mitchell

In this issue: Argentina by New York, a foreign take on Brazil, Louisiana blues, and South India by two siblings raised in the USA.



The Aditya Prakash Ensemble


The Three Voices
Victor Prieto

We say: Virtuoso accordion from Galicia via New York and Argentina

The cover depicts accordionist Victor Prieto towering over the New York City skyline, an accordion in each hand. No doubt about it: accordions feature big here. Spanish-born, New York-based Prieto is a virtuoso musician who plays the instrument in a variety of styles that range from tango to jazz via samba and Galician dance tunes ("Muiñera for Cristina"), although it is jazz that seems to be the common denominator that links them all on The Three Voices. Augmenting a solid trio that consists of Prieto, bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Eric Doob—both dexterous players as evidenced on the workout 'Six Note Samba." Additional musicians, like John Ellis on saxophone and Arturo O'Farrill on piano, also feature on some tracks.

Prieto is also a composer and he wrote all of the tracks on this recording with the exception of "Two Door" by Brad Shepik and Astor Piazolla's "Michelangelo." Indeed, Prieto's most obvious musical reference point is that of legendary Argentine bellows-squeezer, and several of the compositions and arrangements appear to provide a contemporary take on Piazolla's distinctive nuevo tango style. This is particularly noticeable on tracks like "Papa Pin" and "Recuerdos."

Whatever your taste in tango or jazz The Three Voices is hugely enjoyable for its sheer musical exuberance. File under "accordion/Latin jazz" if you feel the need to be precise; otherwise, simple old-fashioned "world music" will do just fine.






Louisiana Soul Revival
Louisiana Soul Revival featuring Doug Duffey

We say: Soul funk blues from north Louisiana

Mention the music of Louisiana and thoughts immediately turn to New Orleans or the Cajun country of the state's southern bayous. This is different, coming from the Mississippi Delta of the northern part of the state. As might be expected, the music here shows a strong electric blues influence along with soul, funk and southern gospel—some might call it a "gumbo" but maybe that would be to reiterate the weary Louisiana cliché just one time too many.

Doug Duffey, who fronts the LSR, is classically trained but you would hardly know it. The music here is down-home and funky, featuring songs composed by Duffey and arranged by his guitarist sidekick Dan Sumner. Duffey has considerable experience in funk having written songs in the past for the likes of Funkadelic, Rare Earth and George Clinton. Some of the numbers featured here—the opener "Funky Bidneh" and "B Wat R Ya"—were composed during that era.

Honking brass features heavily throughout, as does a tight rhythm section and Sumner's bluesy guitar. It's all a little retro in feel, harking back to the heyday of funk and southern soul of the 70s, but that's not such a bad thing. True, there is nothing particularly groundbreaking or original about Louisiana Soul Revival but this is good-time music from the "if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it" school and none the worse for that.






Uai Sô
Benji Kaplan

We say: A whimsical take on the Brazilian musical landscape

If you didn't know any better you might reasonably assume that this collection of contemporary Brazilian music is the work of a native of that country. The truth is, Benji Kaplan is an American composer and guitarist whose first visit to Brazil came at the age of seventeen. Inspired by the Brazilian composer Guinga, whom Kaplan met whilst studying at a music camp in California, Uai Sô has a whimsical quality that is hard to categorize.

The concept behind this work is to evoke an imagined musical landscape that relates to the streets of Brazilian cities (the title of one of the songs, "Valse da Metrópole, gives a clue to this). Do not expect anything too raw or rootsy: while elements of jazz, samba and forro can be discerned on all of the dozen tracks, this is generally more classical-leaning in character and features a lush woodwind ensemble behind Kaplan's voice and acoustic guitar. It's true to say that Uai Sô may not be to everyone's taste: Kaplan's voice is on the light side, and the melodies tend to be meandering and hard to get a grip of. All the same, there is little doubt about the quality of the musicianship on display here or the sincerity behind this project.






Mara
Aditya Prakash Ensemble

We say: A South Indian musical journey with Western flavors

Brother and sister duo Aditya and Mythili Prakesh may have been raised in the United States but they both grew up with a strong South Indian arts background, particularly the Carnatic classical music tradition. While Mythili went on to develop as a dancer her brother Aditya specialized in singing and it is he who leads an ensemble of musicians for this recording.

The eighteen tracks that compose Mara are contrived to create a musical journey, the voyage of the individual (Jeeva) as she negotiates the maze of the human mind (Mara). The conceptual focus is that of eastern (Hindu) spirituality yet the music manages to stand firmly on its own even without its spiritual message.

Musically, Mara is a fusion of both South Indian classical and Western traditions. In addition to the obvious Indian influences there are touches of jazz and flamenco, even a hint of Irish Celtic on "Vasheebhava." While tabla, flutes and Indian percussion are integral to the overall sound, a wide variety of instrumentation has been utilized to create a rich musical backdrop: most notably the piano and keyboards of Julian Le, along with saxophones, trombones and electric guitars. The pace is relentless at times: "Racing Thoughts" speeds along with fast saxophone and piano passages, while the jazzy "The Inner Battle" actually does bring to mind a conflict of sorts. In contrast to these more frenetic pieces, the tempo slows down for gentler offerings like "Dream 7.5," which is appropriately dream-like, and the sad lament "Jeeva's Sorrow."






Laurence Mitchell is a British travel writer and photographer with a special interest in transition zones, cultural frontiers and forgotten places that are firmly off the beaten track. He is author of the Bradt Travel Guides to Serbia, Belgrade and Kyrgyzstan, Slow Norfolk & Suffolk and a regular contributor to Hidden Europe Magazine. His website can be seen at www.laurencemitchell.com and his blog at eastofelveden.wordpress.com.

See the last round of music reviews from Laurence Mitchell.





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Konono No. 1

Buy Louisiana Soul Revival online here:
Amazon US



Abrazo The Havana Sessions

Buy Uai Sô online here:
Amazon US
Amazon UK





West to West

Mara will be available on Amazon mid-August.