This week sees new releases from Manuel Galbán, Luke Ritchie, the Harbour of Song project and a live recording of Stan Getz made in Zurich in 1960.
Manuel Galbán – Blue Cha Cha (Concord Picante)
The last album ever made by the award-winning Cuban guitarist who sadly passed away in July last year at the age of 80. Manuel Galbán made a name with the group Los Zafiros, rose to international fame as part of Buena Vista Social Club and won a Grammy for his musical partnership with Ry Cooder on the album Mambo Sinuendo – a varied and highly successful 60 year career in which he developed a unique style of playing that married his love of Afro-Cuban and Latin American music with rock ‘n’ roll, surf rock and rhythm and blues.
Blue Cha Cha celebrates his remarkable life with a gathering of old compadres who guest on the album. Bluesman Eric Bibb adds his guitar and vocals to the slinky title track, Omara Portuondo sings tenderly on the heartfelt Duele, Batuca features the coruscating melodies of kora wizard Ballake Sissoko, while Rosa Passos’s soft vocals provide the perfect counterpoint to Galbán’s electric guitar and pianist Emilio Morales on Alma Mia. The album reaches a perfect conclusion with the catchy vocals of Trio Esperanca on Bossa Cubana and a delightful duet between Galbán and flamenco guitarist Jose Antonio Rodriguez, plus punchy brass section, on Lluvias De Mayo. The accompanying DVD rounds out this charming celebration of the great man’s life. [Reviewed by Sofi]
Various Artists – Harbour Of Songs (Stables Trading)
A boat built of wood donated by the public, on the understanding that each offering comes with a story attached, has inspired an artist-in-residency project at Milton Keynes’ Stables. It’s a modern exercise in storytelling curated and produced by Adrian McNally and including Guy Chambers, Nick Hornby, Janis Ian, Ralph McTell, Alasdair Roberts and The Unthanks amongst the roll call. Some artists worked directly with McNally, but others with unavoidable commitments recorded a vocal, with basic guitar or piano guides and left the rest in his hands. The tracks have then been worked up at various studios with an even wider cast of players, but the subtle textures and orchestration hold together very well indeed.
As Adrian is part of The Unthanks, they naturally feature throughout and the use of Becky and Rachel’s voices in support of the likes of Nick Hemming (from Leisure Society), Alasdair Roberts, Ian McMillan and Adrian himself, bring an almost spectral grace. Musically it’s delightful and the stories, with the singers re-imagining the donators’ tales, are as varied as the wooden artefacts, engaging and beautifully realised, creating one of the most unlikely, but brilliant, concept albums ever. The boat, as beautiful as it is bonkers, has a fitting companion. [Reviewed by Simon]
Luke Ritchie – The Water’s Edge (Angel Falls)
Having hit his self-imposed target of a song a week for six months, posted the results online and gained a couple of notable fans and collaborators in arranger Nico Muhly and producer Paul savage, Luke Ritchie has created a story around The Water’s Edge suggesting considerable promise. Most significantly it delivers too and from the first spin in the office the CD had my ear. A lengthy set-up period between that play and the release, however, saw the CD leap-frogged several times over on the home play pile, but the chance to see him rekindled the belief that Luke is a rare talent and The Water’s Edge resurfaced at the top of the heap.
Essentially an acoustic rock album, tracks like Lighthouse, the driving Shanty and Lonely Second and grungy Cover It Up offer adventurous arrangements and strong melodies, as the aforementioned allies have done much to elevate Luke’s songs above the singer-songwriter formula. His strong voice and fluid picking illuminate Off Your Guard and Northen Lights with the spirit of a young John Martyn. Perhaps best of all, the elegiac Words and barnstorming Butterfly at the heart of the CD’s track listing, confirm a bonafide classic. [Reviewed by Simon]
Stan Getz Quartet – Live In Zurich, 1960 (TCB Music)
This recording comes at a watershed for Getz. He was living in Denmark, having fled to Europe to wrestle with his drug problems, when the opportunity came to tour with The Oscar Peterson Trio and Miles Davis Quintet. Of the European players he initially hired, only pianist Jan Johansson made it to this Zurich recording, as the bassist and drummer were fired after an argument and replaced by Peterson’s sidemen Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen. Perhaps more importantly, the presence of John Coltrane on the same bill, gave Getz the artistic jolt that would soon have him returning across the Atlantic.
His own innovations with bossa nova would follow, but this set catches him before his revolutionary shift and confirm his standing in the hard-bop and post-bop pantheon. His tenor tone is elegant and mellifluous and even when urged on by Thigpen’s splashing ride cymbal for Woody ‘N’ You, he still sounds unflustered and creamy. The double timed section of I Remember Clifford, sitting betwixt the balladic intro and outro is delightful, while the hustle of Pernod, suggests a show stopper with an eye on the night’s bill. The luxurious 10 minutes of Lands End, however, is simply sublime. [Reviewed by Simon]