This bright and joyful recording has a warm story behind it. New Orleans’ Congo Square was a place where slaves would once gather to pool their musical resources. Some would sing, some would play and many would dance. Out of this surreptitious scene the jazz genre would eventually take form.
Spain’s Music Komite, a quartet led by Francisco Calderón, lends this project enormous color and flair. The cover is a good indicator of the sounds that lie within. One can see the instruments used, but also the attention to balance and complementary tones. More than anything, the music can be described as upbeat. The songs share a certain joie de vivre, which echoes the feelings of the slaves who for a short time at least could feel free, transported by the possibilities of music made in open collaboration. This being said, the music does not sound distinctly Spanish, or African-American, although it glitters with multiple influences. Built on a gentle rock/post-rock base, the album teeters on the verge of electronica, with bright-toned beeps and bells sprinkled throughout. And although the beats are also electronic, their presence draws the clearest line to the handclaps and foot stomps of the Congo Square community.
It’s probably unfair to zero in on particular cuts, since the set is so appealing as a whole. It’s easy enough to simply let the album play on repeat. This being said, a few selections are of special note. The opener, the oddly titled “Korean war”, is a lovely bell-and-beat excursion that suggests naught of conflict, but instead exudes a gentle glow. The three tracks with light female vocals (“Music komite – Mitchell Voice”, “Wrong virtuoso” and “Sans Equivoque”) offer a layer of comfort like a blanket in the fall. And the brass inflections of “Herriko girls” lend the track a plaintive, historical depth. This Congo Square may only exist in the imagination, but it’s a place we’d love to visit. (Richard Allen)
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