Playlist (Mar/Apr 2020) | Music reviews

This month’s listening picks, with reviews of the latest by Yasser Tejeda & Palotré; Kalpee; Pressure Busspipe; and Grégory Privat

  • Kijombo
  • Home
  • Rebel with a Cause
  • Soley


Yasser Tejeda & Palotré (self-released)

The Dominican Republic has blessed the world with the highly popular merengue and bachata genres of music. Native son and guitarist Yasser Tejeda has blended these and other elements of traditional Afro-Dominican music — palo, gaga, perico ripiao — with modern jazz, funk, and rock to create a fusion that is both danceable and indicative of the majesty of New World African music. On the eleven-track album Kijombo, the music sails through moods and tendencies that form a study of how almost ancient and sacred sounds and rhythms can be applied to modern tropes to elevate the whole. The blurb from the record label says the album represents “a journey through a history of Dominican musical resilience.” The percussive pulse, that African heartbeat, is not replaced by electric impulses, but supplemented by ideas and song lyrics that speak to the retention of native excellence. This album is an ideal starting point for new musical discovery.


Kalpee (FVP Global)

The modern trend in creating short-form EPs sometimes gives the listener the hint that we are being teased for an upcoming high-value long-playing album. This EP is too short — less than fifteen minutes — but in that short burst, listeners are bathed in the island pop motifs that anchor much contemporary popular music: a dolphin whistle here, a millennial whoop there, and slow burn on the tropical soca riddim. Kalpee has the distinction of being one of the few artists from Trinidad signed to a major label. Going forward, he is finding new boundaries to cross with his laid-back Trini drawl and lyrics that speak of finding the centre here in his island. “Home is where love resides, memories are created, friends always belong, and laughter never ends,” he says. The first single, “Wherever You Are”, a duet with Jimmy October, could be a hopeful anthem for the homesick wanderer. The other songs describe an arc that is rooted in his patriotic pride.

Rebel with a Cause

Pressure Busspipe (I Grade Records)

St Thomas native and popular reggae artist Pressure Busspipe — you’ve got to love that name — has released his seventh album since 2005, and on Rebel with a Cause listeners become aware of both the ubiquity of the roots rock reggae revival, and the march towards a kind of powerful testimony in the lyricism of reggae artists who are slowly receding from dancehall to find a secure market for this music. This new album is stacked with fourteen songs that address issues such as government corruption, institutional racism, injustice, and economic oppression, “especially for black people,” he says. Collaborations with fellow Virgin Islanders R. City, Reemah, and the late Akae Beka — alongside Jamaicans Sizzla, Protoje, and others, and rapper Redman — suggest the album has many points of interest for both the consumer and the listener. Contemporary reggae elements are sprinkled around to keep the album refreshing all the way through, never dulling its socio-political subjects.


Grégory Privat (Buddham Jazz)

Martiniquan pianist Grégory Privat continues his elegant exploration of Creole jazz with this follow-up to his recent album Family Tree. This new album of trio music, with collaborators Canadian Chris Jennings on double bass and fellow Martiniquan Tilo Bertholo on drums, sparkles with a new energy, as it incorporates electronics and allows Privat the opportunity to sing. Fifteen tracks draw on the richness of Creole jazz heritage in the French Antilles, and juxtapose those aesthetic elements with sounds that can only exist in a synthetic medium, to enrich the band’s playing. Privat tells us that SOLEY is “a concept of Spirituality, Optimism, Light, and Energy (coming to) You.” The album represents continued mastery of technique and dynamics on the piano, and a full understanding of the Creole perspective. There is a sense of experimentation on this record, pointing to the idea that this music can be catharsis and spiritual haven: jazz illuminated and elevated.


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