This month, we’ll take a quick survey of three new albums from innovative artists hailing from various points on the globe.
Forro in the Dark, “Sandcastle” (Nacional Records) Mauro Refosco, Guilherme Monteiro and Jorge Continentino are Brazilians living in New York. Their shared musical name references a local sound — which AllMusic defined as “a percussion-heavy, accordion-led, intoxicatingly rhythmic dance music that is to northeastern Brazil as samba is to Rio de Janeiro.”
The threesome chases after a unique take on forro with quirky modern touches and a fondness for North American music. The trio’s versatility and wide listening interests has allowed it to keep great company, collaborating with David Byrne, Thom Yorke and John Zorn among others.
On its latest, the band continues to keep it weird and invigorating. Gliding rock, atmospheric pop and slinky English-language jazz are represented. Consistent throughout are vibrant guitar tones and nimble beats. The album’s second half slides too much into reggae and ska for my taste, but when the band is on its game, it is truly something to behold.
Key tracks: “Forro de Casa Grande,” “Roca de Pedra,” “Inha”
Tigran Hamasyan, “An Ancient Observer” (Nonesuch Records) The Armenian jazz pianist is young — he turns 30 in July — but has a marvelous resume. He has already recorded for two highly-regarded labels, Nonesuch and ECM, and has branched out to compose in a number of styles and idioms.
His solo piano work will appeal to fans of Vijay Iyer and Brad Mehldau. But Hamasyan doesn’t stop there — his original material is deeply influenced by the folk music of his home country. Thus what majors on jazz stretches itself out into fascinating wordless vocal music and new classical music.
With “An Ancient Observer,” it seems he truly is trying to make world music. The record, he said in a bio, offers “the observation of the world we live in now and the weight of our history we carry on our shoulders that is influencing us even if we don’t realize it.”
Key tracks: “The Cave of Rebirth,” “Nairian Odyssey,” “New Baroque 2,” “Egyptian Poet”
Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang, “Build Music” (Luaka Bop) Bubu is a form of music played by Muslims in Sierra Leone. Janka Nabay has brought bubu to the world; now living on the East Coast, he carried the music to the United States when he escaped his country’s civil war. His first record for Byrne’s Luaka Bop label gained serious plaudits from a cross-section of the music press.
Nabay is back with a second album that furthers his 21st-century expression of bubu; whereas the music is traditionally played on various flutes and pipes, Nabay uses keyboards and samples to recreate those tones. The songs here are buoyant and breathtaking, a marriage of rolling beats, soulful vocals and idiosyncratic flourishes.
Key tracks: “Build Music,” “Santa Monica,” “Popeneh,” “Game Ova,” “Sabanoh”