Ancient Future

World Without Walls

Capitol/EMI

San Francisco Bay Area-based Ancient Future was all about “world fusion” before world music was even a genre. To honor the band’s reunion this summer after a 15-year performance hiatus, Capitol/EMI is giving their fifth and most accessible disc its first digital release.

Violinist Jim Hurley came on board for this long-out-of-print 1990 outing, joining the core group of guitarist Matthew Montfort, keyboardist Doug McKeehan and percussionist Ian Dogole and remaining as a member for the rest of the group’s seven studio albums. Tabla player extraordinaire Zakir Hussain was recruited for three songs, and the record also is an early engineering/production credit for alternative pedal steeler Bruce Kaphan (who, alas, only plays shaker here).

Several exotic instruments spice up this instrumental stew, including electric violin and synthesized thumb piano (“Dance of the Rain Forest”), steel drums (“April Air”), and Balinese gamelan and Chinese flute (“Nyo Nyo Gde”).

Other highlights are “Lakshmi Rocks Me,” a tribute to south Indian violinist L. Shankar; “End of the Beginning,” a mashup of ancient Celtic and Indian influences; “Turkish Taffy,” boasting a triple-lead attack comprising guitar, piano and acoustic violin; “Indra’s Net,” inspired by Hindu mythology and featured in the soundtrack for the drift-net fishing documentary “Closing the Curtains of Death”; and “Gopi Song,” a tip of the hat to Pandit Ram, master of a north Indian bowed string instrument called the sarangi.

Tracks
1. Lakshmi Rocks Me
2. Dance Of The Rain Forest
3. April Air
4. 14 Steps
5. End Of The Beginning
6. Turkish Taffy
7. Alap
8. Indra’s Net
9. Nyo Nyo Gde
10. Gopi Song

Total time: 44:02

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Paul Simon

So Beautiful or So What

Hear Music

simonThere’s not a lot of Anglo-American or British rock musicians who’ve recorded albums that draw heavily on multicultural rhythms and melodies, supported by handpicked musicians from around the globe. Simon is one, along with Peter Gabriel, Sting and a few others.

He started down the international road on his sixth album,1986’s Afro-pop-infused “Graceland,” and continued with 1990’s Brazilian-influenced “The Rhythm of the Saints.” His two studio albums proper between then and “So Beautiful” (2000’s “You’re the One” and 2006’s Brian Eno collaboration “Surprise”) contain decidedly lower-key world-music elements.

But here Simon — whose songs more resemble musical poems these days — wholeheartedly re-embraces the genre, especially on “The Afterlife,” “Dazzling Blue” (with guests Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver), “Rewrite” and “Love Is Eternal Sacred Light” (featuring a sampled Sonny Terry harmonica solo).

Most of the rest of the album is made up of interesting twists: the short instrumental “Amulet”‘; the bluesy “Getting Ready for Christmas Day,” which samples and is written around a 1941 sermon of the same name; the double shot of stripped-down, mildly orchestrated ballads in “Love and Hard Times” and “Questions for the Angels”: and “Love and Blessings,” which sees Simon duetting with a sampled Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet.

Last but not least, the highly syncopated, offbeat title track can’t decide if it’s swamp blues or soul jazz, but therein lies its beauty. In fact, the entire album makes an art form of anachronism, turning what should be incongruous sounds into something marvelously homogenized.

Equally amazing is that, world-music guests and old-time samples aside, the album was performed mostly by Simon, longtime guitarist Vincent Nguini and drummer Jim Oblon — with not a lick of bass anywhere. The production, by Simon’s ’70s producer Phil Ramone, is impeccable.gnm_end_bug

Tracks
1. Getting Ready For Christmas Day
2. The Afterlife
3. Dazzling Blue
4. Rewrite
5. Love And Hard Times
6. Love Is Eternal Sacred Light
7. Amulet
8. Questions For The Angels
9. Love And Blessings
10. So Beautiful Or So What

Total time: 38:09

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Waitiki 7

Adventures in Paradise

Pass Out

waitiki7The Waitiki 7 are not a revivalist group like Don Tiki — which W7 drummer Abe Lagrimas Jr. was a member of before he and longtime friend/fellow Hawaiian Randy Wong co-founded the original Waitiki quartet — but rather an exotica jam band. The septet updates the genre by augmenting the requisite vibraphone with plenty of sax and violin and often employing dead-serious jazz improvisation.

The disc begins with a lone bird call by Lopaka Colon, son of Martin Denny percussionist/bird caller Augie Colon. As the other players gradually climb aboard and start taking their solos, their interpretation of Les Baxter’s “Coronation” (from his genre-forming 10-inch 1951 debut, “Le Sacre du Sauvage”) leaves no doubt this tiki train is at full steam and bound for paradise.

The vibraphone, piano, trombone and sax solos on “Totem Pole” make it known in no uncertain terms that the band also claims jazz as its forte, in a deft rendition of Lee Morgan’s classic from his 1963 “The Sidewinder” LP.

Another of the album’s half-dozen covers is Baxter’s “The Left Arm of Buddha,” originally a two-minute 1956 single. Here it is stretched out to more than four minutes, featuring an animated vibraphone jam and intoxicating violin flourishes.

“Ouanalao” is a prime example of the group’s original, modernized exotica. W7 saxophonist Tim Mayer’s composition is part avant garde, part smooth jazz and 100% uptempo, nicely set off by a repeating pattern of three descending, extended violin notes.

Classical elements surface on “L’ours Chinois,” a concerto written by musical director/bassist Wong. It begins with a slow solo by Wong’s wife, violinist Helen Liu, but then switches to a traditional Chinese sound before expanding the oriental motif through alternating Quintette du Hot Club de France- and Maurice Ravel-inspired movements.

Other in-house compositional contributions include Jim Benoit’s xylophone workout, “Ned’s Redemption,” which would be well-suited as accompaniment to a Keystone Cops reel; and Zaccai Curtis’ piano work on his Latinesque “Craving,” which leaves the listener doing just that for more.

The album’s denouement is the title track, an instrumental version of Lionel Newman’s theme to James Michener’s “Adventures in Paradise,” the 1959-62 ABC series about a sea captain who roves the South Pacific on a schooner named (what else?) Tiki III. Arthur Lyman, the Ventures, Henry Mancini and even the Mermen have recorded this amazing song, and W7 are worthy of their company.

In true jam-band spirit, the website for W7’s parent collective, www.waitiki.com, streams live tracks from last summer’s Wassermusik Festival in Berlin at the House of World Cultures (pictured on “Paradise’s” cover). Here’s hoping it continues to add live tracks as the band tours. Better yet, it could encourage audience taping and allow performances to be posted at archive.org’s Live Music Archive and/or throw fans a bone by posting a soundboard recording to LMA directly.gnm_end_bug

Tracks
1. Coronation
2. Totem Pole
3. Manila
4. Craving
5. Left Arm Of Buddha
6. Her Majesty’s Pearl
7. Ouanalao
8. L’ours Chinois
9. Ned’s Redemption
10. Sacha-Cha
11. Octopus Menagerie
12. Mood Indigo
13. Adventures In Paradise

Total time: 1:01:59

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The Derek Trucks Band

Songlines

Columbia

These are heady days for slide guitar fans.

The old guard (Ry CooderDavid LindleySonny Landreth) continues to crank out albums, although with age the output seems to have slowed to about one every five years — collectively.

Meanwhile, the next generation (Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars; sacred-steeler-gone-wild Robert Randolph; and Trucks, who also is in the Allman Brothers and will be joining Doyle Bramhall II to back Eric Clapton on a European tour from May through July) has emerged.

Like Cooder, Trucks has taken a shine to world music, at least of the Indian variety. He’s also displayed an affinity for jazz, blues, country, soul, gospel and Latin.

What makes “Songlines” different from other Derek Trucks Band albums is the incorporation of a full-time singer into what has been a predominantly instrumental lineup. Mike Mattison of the Minneapolis/St. Paul duo Scrapomatic was a good choice, as his soulful vocals fit the group’s eclecticism like a glove.

This time the musical grab bag includes songs by Rahsaan Roland Kirk, the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Taj Mahal, Toots Hibbert, O.V. Wright and Nina Simone, as well as five original compositions and a traditional number.

The term songlines, incidentally, is derived from the Aborigines’ belief that their elders traveled the continent literally singing their world into existence. The “songlines” they created became a map for finding one’s way through life.

Tracks
1. Volunteered Slavery
2. I’ll Find My Way
3. Crow Jane
4. Sahib Teri Bandi / Maki Madni
5. Chevrolet
6. Sailing On
7. Revolution
8. I’d Rather Be Blind, Crippled And Crazy
9. All I Do
10. Mahjoun
11. I Wish I Knew
12. This Sky

Total time: 53:46

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