October Jukebox (Part 2)

Banner image: Turkish-Canadian Duo Minor Empire (Photo courtesy of Rock Paper Scissors)


Rhythm Planet’s October Jukebox continues this week with another set of the latest world, jazz, and classical releases. We begin with the Toronto-based Turkish group Minor Empire. For the theme of their new album Uprootedvocalist Ozgu Ozman and arranger/guitarist Ozan Boz drew from their feelings of loss and shock at the crushing of the Gezi Park demonstrations by the Turkish government. Then came a similar crackdown on the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Minor Empire have translated their dismay, disappointment, and heartbreak into a suite of moving songs.

The new compilationTwo Niles to Sing a Melody: The Violins and Synths of Sudan recaptures Sudanese music before a 1989 crackdown by the country’s hardline religious government. As usual, music and other cultural expressions were not tolerated. Sudan had seen a flowering of the arts in the decades prior, but that all came to an abrupt stop with the new government.  Fortunately for us, the team at Ostinato Records visited Sudan’s neighbors—Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, and Egypt—in search of Sudanese treasures that made it out of the country. Their search was abetted Sudanese partner Tamador Sheikh Eldin Gibreel, a poet and actress in 1970’s Khartoum. We hear a track written by the great Sudanese musician Abdel El Aziz Al Mubarek, whose earlier album on the Globestyle label has entranced me for years. Good work in sleuthing and excavating these musical gems!

At right: Abdel El Aziz Al Mubarak & Kamal Tarbas (Photo courtesy of Ostinato Records)

We then listen to a fascinating collaborative album from the group Bokanté (with Guadeloupian creole singer Malika Tirolien out front on vocals) and Jules Buckley conducting the Metropole Orchestra (aka Metropole Orkest). A true super group, Bokanté was founded by Michael League of Snarky Puppy, and it should garner plenty of attention for its daring vision and performance. The album What Heat blends African, Arab, classical and jazz music, breaking down barriers right and left. Not surprisingly, it’s on Peter Gabriel’s Real World label.

Israeli tenor saxophonist Eli Degibri blows great Hank Mobley classics next on his latest album Soul Station – A Tribute to Hank Mobley. Degibri moved from Israel to Boston to attend the Berklee School of music, then attended the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz on a full scholarship. After graduation, he was hired by Herbie Hancock for a 30-month stint. Degibri later returned to his native Israel, and currently serves as co-artistic director of the Red Sea Jazz Festival.

Swedish bassist-composer and longtime Boston resident Bruno Råberg follows with a superb jazz trio record featuring pianist Bruce Barth and drummer Adam Cruz. I like trio albums a lot, and I loved this one from the start. About the title track, Tailwind,” I agree with Råberg’s description: “When playing with great musicians such as Bruce and Adam, I get the sense of being lifted and carried along, the music flowing effortlessly yet deeply.”

Jazz pianist Connie Han might be only 22 years-old, but her music is solid and swinging, her technique superb, and her group stellar. Inspired from an early age by her parents—both classical musicians—Han is a bright new star on the jazz scene, one which will certainly shine brighter as time goes by. Han plays with saxophonist Walter Smith III and other top Los Angeles-based musicians on her new Mack Avenue record Crime Zone.

We hear next from veteran jazz pianist Cyrus Chestnut, with his jazz love poem to Claude Debussy’s timeless music. A classically-trained pianist and also adept in spiritual gospel and modern jazz, Chestnut is comfortable in multiple realms. He tackles the timeless music of Debussy, Erik Satie, and Ravel on the new album Kaleidoscope, an apt title to mirror his prodigious talents. Bassist Eric Wheeler and drummer Chris Beck join Chestnut on this record. We hear his jazz version of Debussy’s “Jimbo’s Lullaby.”

Since it’s the centennial of Debussy’s death, we feature another new album of his music, this time by veteran French pianist Hélène Grimaud playing “Deux Arabesques.” You can tell she deeply loves and feels the music she’s chosen for this beautiful album, the most personal one she has ever recorded. Grimaud also performs timeless music by Chopin, Satie, Silvestrov, and U.K.-based contemporary superstar Nitin Sawhney. I think even those who are “allergic” to or uninitiated in classical music would love this album. Great for quiet moments, traffic calming, or meditation.

The final two songs send a timely political message and go together well. First, Los Angeles trumpeter and band leader John Daversa chose DACA artists to tell their stories for the big band album American Dreamers: Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom. We conclude the playlist with Israeli jazz pianist Shai Maestro, who features President Obama’s reaction to gun violence in U.S. schools on his new ECM album, The Dream Thief.

There is a lot of variety here, and I hope you find something you really like and maybe even want to add to your own collection!

Here’s another song from Minor Empire:

Rhythm Planet Playlist for 10/16/18

  1. Minor Empire / “Dunya” /Uprooted / World Trip Records
  2. Abdel El Aziz Al Mubarek / “Ma Kunta Aarif Yarait (I Wish I Had Known)” / Two Niles to Sing a Melody: The Violins and Synths of Sudan / Ostinato Records
  3. Bokanté + Metropole Orkest; Conducted by Jules Buckley / “La Maison En Feu” / What Heat / Real World Records
  4. Eli Degibri / “Remember” / Soul Station – A Tribute to Hank Mobley / Helicon Music
  5. Bruno Råberg Trio / “Tailwind” / Tailwind / Red Piano Records
  6. Connie Han / “Crime Zone” / Crime Zone / Mack Avenue Records
  7. Cyrus Chestnut / “Jimbo’s Lullaby” / Kaleidoscope / HighNote Records
  8. Hélèn Grimaud / “Deux Arabesques, L.66: 1. Andantino con moto in E Major” by Claude Debussy/ Memory / Deutsche Grammophon
  9. John Daversa Big Band & DACA Artists / “Saba” / American Dreamers: Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom / BFM Jazz
  10. Shai Maestro / “What Else Needs to Happen?” / The Dream Thief / ECM

(Carousel image c/o Rock Paper Scissors)