CD REVIEW: Ferenc Snétberger, Eric Bibb, Mulatu Astatke and other CDs in brief




Editor-At-Large Peter Bacon flips through his pile of recently-released CDs.

Ferenc Snétberger - Titok
(ECM 574 0670)

The Hungarian acoustic guitarist Ferenc Snétberger’s last album (also on ECM) was a solo affair recorded in concert. This time he is in the Rainbow Studio in Oslo with Anders Jormin on double bass and Joey Baron on drums. All the music is written by Snétberger and all 13 tracks are fairly concise. Some, like the delightfully melodic Kék Kerék, sound like folk songs, others have a chamber-jazz feel with the leader’s instrument inevitably reminding of the classical guitar repertoire, and some even sound like standards. Snétberger has a precise touch, flowing improvisational mind, and imparts each piece with a generous heart, a grace fully embraced by his sensitive fellows.

Steel Sheep - Trucker’s Tan
(Buma/Stemra)

Steel Sheep is a trio comprising Slovenian/American violinist  Bela Horvat, Spanish acoustic guitarist Virxilio Da Silva and American double bassist Matt Adomeit. They are based in Amsterdam. They are highly skilled and have more new ideas per minute than most people have over a couple of months. This means the 13 original compositions on this album never become boring. What they do become is exhausting. Well, with the odd exception. Departures is remarkable for its adherence to one theme and overall atmosphere over its modest duration. It’s natural in the land of jigs and reels to flit from one thing to another, but Steel Sheep’s desire to cram in all they know, from folk music to swing jazz to modern classical harmony, gets very close to chronic ADD. Bluegrass for boys who like clever computer games.

Claudio Jr De Rosa Jazz 4et - Groovin’ Up
(Incipit Records ING233)

De Rosa is an Italian tenor and soprano saxophonist and his 4et has Xavi Torres Vicente on piano, Kimon Karoutzos on double bass and Augustus Baronas on drums. Vivienne ChuLiao steps in on piano for one track. The tunes are all his bar the closer which is the standard I Hear A Rhapsody - they are strongly structured with some catchy hooks and pretty melodies. As a player the leader does just that from the start, opening with an unaccompanied work-out over the whole range of the tenor which reminded my a little of Joshua Redman or a less acrobatic Marius Neset.
He has a particularly lovely - and typically light, sunny Italian - tone on soprano, heard to fine effect on The Case. It’s nicely recorded, too.

Eric Bibb - Migration Blues
(Dixiefrog Records DFGCD 8795)

Blues singer/guitarist Eric Bibb might be a little smooth-sounding for the hardcore heritage blues fan but he is slowly building a strong body of work, and this album, with its theme of strife-driven movement, could be his best yet. On first listen, you’d swear these were old songs from dustbowl times and earlier, but just as Gillian Welch and David Rawlings do in a country context, Bibb and his co-writers compose with a penchant for an old-time turn of phrase. While most are new originals, Bibb also covers Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land, Bob Dylan’s Masters Of War and the traditional Mornin’ Train. A bit like a blues record version of the BBC Radio 4 programme The Long View, Migration Blues reminds us that refugees and migrants have always been with us, and a sense of history can foster our help and understanding.

Mulatu Astatke - Mulatu Of Ethiopia
(Strut Records Strut 129CD)

Strut Records claim this is the first official release of a landmark recording in the Ethiopian composer and multi-instrumentalist’s career. It was recorded in 1972 in New York and is filled with Mulatu Astatke’s characteristic sliding plates of bass and percussion, wah-wah funk guitar and riffy woodwinds, all overlaid with grit-rasped tenor saxophone, flute or vibes solos, using that swooning slightly disconcerting five-tone scale. The single CD version I have contains tunes that Astatke would return to again and again in live shows - Dewel, Kulunmanqueleshi and Kasalefku-Hulu among them - in both stereo and mono versions. For the real nerds here is a three-LP, six-panel gatefold sleeve album which contains the stereo master album, a pre-mix mono master and a selection of out-takes, plus rare photos and an interview with the man himself.

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