Sunday, February 19, 2012

Music Review: New World Beat - After Carnival

This article was first published at Blogcritics

After Carnival, the debut album of NewWorld Beat, a world music jazz fusion ensemble out of Miami, is the kind of music that seems deceptively simple on first hearing, but grows increasingly complex and interesting each time you listen.  Led by the vibraphone of composer Richard Sprince, New World Beat, runs through a set of exotic melodies played over a torrent of Latin American rhythms that serves as a template for some innovative solo improvisation.  This is not the kind of music that makes for easy listening, no matter first impressions; this is music that rewards continued listening.

Of the eleven tracks on the album, nine are original Sprince compositions and two are covers of Pat Metheny pieces.  Notes on the band's website indicate that "After Carnival is intended to stand as a whole, developing a story and ambience from track to track.  This structure is paralleled by the through-composed nature of each number."  This is somewhat contradicted by the indication that some of the tracks are featured as singles.  I must admit that though I would be hard put to define exactly what that story might be, I will buy the band's assertion and keep trying.  There is, after all, a clearly consistent tone and atmosphere running through the album. 

Stand out tracks include the haunting jazz tango "Adios, Buenos Aires" inspired we are told by a midnight ferry trip across the Rio de la Plata.  It features some impressive solo work by the group's saxophonist, Matt Vashlishan.  Vashlishan, playing both the alto and the soprano sax, also contributes fine solos on the title track "After Carnival" as well as "Fantasia de Carnival" and the album's closing song, Pat Metheny's "Sueno Con Mexico."  Guest artist flautist Jorge Pardo adds a wistful solo to the bolero rhythms of "Song For Brazil," which also has some nice solo moments from Sprince on the vibes.  Like some of the other songs it also uses the vocal harmonies of Tony Cruz and Terezinha Valdis.

Videos of longer live versions of the album's opening song "Beyond the Clouds" and the samba varietal "Partido Alto" are available on the band's website.  The recorded versions of both have similar dynamic solo work on the soprano sax from the ubiquitous Vashlishan.  "The Dance Has Just Begun" introduces guest guitarist Gary Damanti for a solo after the vocalized melody.  He is followed again by. . . .guess who.  "Last Train Home" is the other Metheny compostion slowed down from the original and introducing three year old Alejandro Pino-Sprinz with an a cappella outro—a little cutesy perhaps, but it's hard to get upset with proud parents indulging themselves for a few seconds.

The other members of New World Beat are Diogo Brown, fretless bass, Tom Lippincott, 8 string guitar, Goran Rista, drums, Cezar Santana, nylon string guitar and Dwili Dewongy, percussion.  All in all, After Carnival is an auspicious beginning.

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