Abstract Index playlist - Feb 22/06
Started off last week with a one two punch of the late great Ray Barretto. Back when the Record Peddler had just moved from Carlton St. to Yonge, they had several vinyl collections of Fania material reissued on Charly Records (the great UK reissuers of the early 80s). One was an outstanding comp called "Hard Hands" which featured some of Barretto's most progressive late 60s and 70s work. The minute I heard "Tumbao Africano" I was hooked for life; its combination of West African percussion patterns, Cuban bata drums and twisting avant jazz charts was Barretto at his most challenging and compelling. Soul Sides and the Pablo Guzman in the Village Voice do this ambassadorial figure justice.
One of his undisputed career highlights was his key role in the Fania All Stars 1973 concert in Yankee Stadium. This concert helped establish the concept of Salsa (or "brown-power music" as Soul Sides termed it) as a major commercial force in New York and many points beyond. Tens of thousands attended this show. Barretto and Mongo Santamaria literally brought the house down with their conga battle on the intense "Congo Bongo", which caused ecstatic fans to flood the field, ending the show off prematurely. The other track "Oracion" is from another album that year: the jazz- funked, Rhodes-soaked "The Other Road".
Speaking of brown power music, the track that led off the second set is from one of my most rotated discs of the moment. I say "most rotated" because I can't quite make up my mind about it. It's a real head-scratcher for categorization, and in some ways a riposte to those who would use the argument that 'world music' champions inferior musicians and who are unknown at home. Kane is from Senegal, but his home has been Paris since the late 90s soaking up cosmopolitan sounds. This disc was recorded in Paris and in Scotland with Martin Swan of celtic fusioneers Mouth Music producing and adding touches such as fiddle and accordion. Kane plays acoustic guitar and guimbri- he's no virtuoso, but at his best he's got a captivating vibe. He's incorporated Gnawa rhythms, instruments and musicians with funk, reggae, rock and blues in an almost entirely acoustic blend. So often, acoustic instrumentation is used to make fusion sound less contrived, but as with Mouth Music, Swan's production leans on the dub and atmospherics without being heavy handed. Augmented by delay, the deep resonance of the guimbri, beats and bass take over in the best tracks. There are a few twee moments on this disc, most notably the Putumayo friendly opening number, but overall it's a strong example of world fusion with substance championed by discerning labels like Riverboat.
congo bongo - fania all stars (fania)
oracion - ray barretto (fania)
codex - william parker and the olmec ensemble (aum fidelity)
psychiemotus - yusuf lateef (impulse)
mirth of perth - st. dirt elementary school (rat drifting)
horses - robert stillman (mill pond)
winter samba - shrift (six degrees)
sweet lies - mike shannon (scape)
chicano zen - charanga cakewalk (triloka)
nabi - nuru kane (riverboat)
the winner - barrington levy (pressure sounds)
sedate remix - josh roseman unit (enja)
circle in seven - zarbang (arc)
mahli - souad massi (wrasse)
ber ber - kaly live dub (pias)
superstar - ranking dread (moll selekta)
choice of colours - jackie mittoo and the brentford disco set (soul jazz)
choice of colours - ranking joe (m10)
federated backdrop - sound dimension (soul jazz)
folk song version - tafari syndicate (pressure sounds)