[83] Bembeya Jazz National – The Syliphone Years

7 Nov

Initially, I enjoyed this album.  Then I didn’t.  And then I figured out how I could solve the problem.

2009 Rematered Edition

2009 remastered Edition

My first impression was of wildly riffing guitars and intricate drumbeats that going on forever.  What’s not to like?

Except that seemed to be the extent of what was on offer.  Two and a half hours of uninspiring vocals and same-sounding songs, without a melody to latch onto.  I was ready to write this recording off.  In the background, at my desk, the details of these flowing jams just faded away – they are pleasant enough, utterly inoffensive, but did not engage me.

This all changed when I lay in bed listening carefully on headphones to the intricate interplay between each instrument, each musician.  There are so many moving parts to follow, changing as the album rolls on.  The guitar attack of the “Republique Guinee” in the opening are replaced by searing horns by the time we reach “Doni Doni” and throughout the drums drive the whole forward.

And in between each track that holds my attention, another one or two which I find difficult to differentiate from all the rest.

I most enjoy the songs where the band lives up to their name and the “jazz” in Jazz National Bembeya becomes explicit.  The brass and vocals wailing together as in “Super Tentemba”, or the experimental jazz sound that I find I enjoy so much found in “Sou”.

By the time we reach “Sina Mousso” there are 80s hair-metal guitar solos, a refreshing change of pace, both technically and emotionally impressive.

In the end there is just too much music here, and while the sound is coherent, recognizable as all performed by a single band, the quality is quite uneven.  The 26 track listing could easily be cut at least in half to create a punchier, more compelling experience.

And that’s what I did, which allows me to recommend this album, if with reservations.

Next Week: Jorge Ben – Africa/Brasil

Owned before blogging? No. (9 of 83 = 11%)
Heard before blogging? No. (12 of 83 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (67 of 83 = 81%)

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