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A brief taste of some recent releases that may (or may not) be reviewed in more depth in the coming months. Reviews by Michael Stone, Cliff Furnald, Greg Harness and others.

Tom Russell and the Norwegian Wind Ensemble
Aztec Jazz (Frontera Records)

Tom Russell is certainly one of the greatest American songwriters, churning out incredible songs since "Gallo Del Cielo" in the 1970s. This record takes a dozen of his best and adds arrangements by a 23-piece jazz orchestra from Halden, Norway, the Norwegian Wind Ensemble. The pairing makes sense as Russell comes from Norwegian roots (mined in his 1999 recording The Man From God Knows Where). The standout tracks are "Guadalupe" and "East of Woodstock, West of Vietnam." Highly recommended. - Greg Harness

Quebe Sisters
Every Which­a­Way
Fiddletone Records

The third release from this Texas­based group is yet another solid presentation of Western swing. The sisters sing three­part harmony and play three­voiced fiddles on swing classics written by the likes of Bob Wills, Ernest Tubb, and Hank Williams. The arrangements by the band’s guitarist Joey McKenzie are perfectly suited for the ensemble. Even the sad songs on this collection bring a smile. - GH

David Buchbinder
Walk to the Sea
Buchbinder (trumpet, flugelhorn) teams with Cuban pianist Hilario Durán on original works by the artists, with Afro-Cuban, Jewish, North African and classical inflections (flute, clarinet, tenor and soprano sax, guitar, tres, oud, violin, viola, bass, batá, congas, chekere, riq, frame drum, dumbeq, drum kit), plus singers Michal Cohen and Maryem Hassan Tollar: Levantine jazz for the 21st century. - MS

Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica Quartet
Where Here Meets There
Vibraphonist-percussionist-composer-bandleader Brian O’Neill’s third Tiki outing, a quirky bricolage of George Gershwin, Miguel de Falla, Chano Pozo, Dizzy Gillespie, Cal Tjader, Peggy Lee and O’Neill’s own offerings (e.g., “Would You Like Bongos with That Fugue?”). Think grooving George and Jane Jetson, Skypad Apartments muzak, Orbit City lounge music, tea party antidote for any starport in the asteroid storm. - MS

Joe Fielder’s Big Sackbut
Sackbut Stomp, featuring Steven Bernstein
Multiphonics Music
Three trombones, a tuba and slide trumpet (Steven Bernstein), an embouchure workout on Roger Miller’s “King of the Road,” Chano Pozo and Gil Fuller’s “Tin Tin Deo,” Bennie Wallace’s “Eight Page Bible” and Fielder originals, brassy blast attitude from Africando collaborators Fielder and Luis Bonilla, Ryan Keberle (Catharsis, Maria Schneider) and tuba man Marcus Rojas (Sly & Robbie, Henry Threadgill, Lionel Hampton, John Zorn, American Symphony Orchestra). Deep tone on the bone phone. - MS

William Onyeabor
Who Is William Onyeabor?
Luaka Bop
Some very funky Nigerian soul music made by an artist that everyone is talking about and no one knows anything about. Mythology abounds (he's a High Chief of the Igbo village of Enugu; he's a Christian who turned his back on stardom and popular music) and that's probably what makes him important. The truth is probably not near as exciting as the stories. - CF

Stefano Bollani and Hamilton de Holanda
O Que Será
On this superbly conceived live date at Jazz Middelheim, Antwerp (August 2012), the intuitive interplay between piano and bandolim on an elegant repertoire (Ernesto Nazareth, Pixinguinha, Baden Powell, Vinicius de Moraes, Edu Lobo, Chico Buarque, Jobim, and Piazzolla, plus compositions by the artists themselves) exemplifies the virtuosic genius of a true-north world jazz sensibility, music beyond category if not time itself. - MS
You can listen here

Cristina Braga
Samba, Jazz and Love

Classical harp and urbane voice place this talented artist (who is first harpist of the Orquestra Sinfônica do Teatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro) in an enchanting jazz category of her own fine tuning, essaying a fetching array of archetypal composers (Vinicius de Moraes, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Candeia, Caetano Veloso, Moacir Santos), with restrained backing by the Modern Samba Quartet (trumpet and flugelhorn, vibraphone, percussion and double bass), taking Brazilian jazz into new territory. - MS

Guy Clark
My Favorite Picture of You
Dualtone Music Group

All my songwriter friends list Guy Clark as an essential influence. This collection of ten new co-writes is yet another demonstration of why this Texas native is indeed the songwriter's songwriter. “Heroes,” and “El Coyote” stand with Clark's best songs, and that's saying something for the man who wrote “Dublin Blues” and “Desperados Waiting for a Train.” The accompaniment is sparse, perfectly framing his words rendered passionately and emotionally. The title track, written for his wife Susanna who passed away last year, is especially moving. - GH

Uri Sharlin and the DogCat Ensemble
Back to the Woods
Folk Dune-Naxos

Former director of and pianist with the Israeli Army jazz band, now New York based, Uri Sharlin (piano, wurli, accordion) employs a palette of flute, bassoon, bass clarinet, guitar, bass and percussion on mostly original material with Eastern (“Night Swim,” “One for Frankie,” “Munday by Night”), Brazilian (“Baião” and Hermeto Pascoal’s “Dia #342”), reggae (“The Real DogCat”), funk (“Don Quixote”) and ambient (“Monte Verde”) strains. - Michael Stone

Rokia Traoré
Beautiful Africa

Well, as a big fan of this singer and guitarist from Mali, I have to express disappointment in her 2013 release. It's clichéd in a dozen different ways, with overwrought production courtesy of produced by English musician John Parish of the band PJ Harvey (who I personally know little about and won't be inspired to explore now). Previous recordings by Traoré have always felt vital and fresh. This one seems like they were trying too hard to do some sort of crossover, in an era where it's just so unnecessary. So after a brilliant opening track, the rest just slowly glides downhill. I had high hopes when I opened this up. Dashed! - CF

Read an earlier interview with the artist

Tom Russell and the Norwegian Wind Ensemble
Aztec Jazz (Frontera Records)

Tom Russell is certainly one of the greatest American songwriters, churning out incredible songs since “Gallo Del Cielo” in the 1970s. This record takes a dozen of his best and adds arrangements by a 23-piece jazz orchestra from Halden, Norway, the Norwegian Wind Ensemble. The pairing makes sense as Russell comes from Norwegian roots (mined in his 1999 recording The Man From God Knows Where). The standout tracks are “Guadalupe” and “East of Woodstock, West of Vietnam.” Highly recommended. - Greg Harness

Viva Africando (Stern's Music)
Twenty years, 7 recordings and counting - Africando has made itself the very definition of Afro-Latin vocal music with its rich range of contributors (Amadou Ballake, Bassirou Sarr, Sékouba Bambino, James Gadiaga, Jos Spinto, Shoubou: aka Roger Eugène, Lokombe, Pascal Dieng, Rene Cabral, Raymond Fernandes, Medoune Diallo and Ray De La Paz all showed up for this latest one). Their latest does not disappoint. We have a full review coming next month, so for now, just bask in their musical glow. - CF

CD available from cdRoots

D'en haut
D'en haut (pagansmusica.net)
Totally unique Occitan music from this duo from Gascony. Pairbon (Roman Colautti) & Tomàs Baudoi (on bass, tambourins à cordes, flute, tabara, boha, tibetan bowls, shruti box, hurgy toy, metal plates, etc) beat, blow and chant their way through nine songs that defy categories while still seeming to somehow remain "in the tradition." The band wryly notes: "On your invitation, we put our luggage loaded of this great moor which running to the Pyrenees. Time step, we take our musical offerings before returning to our explorations. Acoustic duo, but beware... the sweetness is only displayed to trick you, because soon, will prawl around your ears, the dreams of a Gasconha who has not finished fussing." - CF

More new releases:
Most of these recordings have been featured on RootsWorld Radio

Bengt Berger - Beches Brew Big (Country and Eastern)
Juaneco y su Conjunto - Birth of Jungle Cumbia (Vital Record)
Ray Lema Quintet - VSNP (One Drop)
Gabriel Palatchi Band Caja Musical (artist release)
Basco The Remarkable Return of Old Man Basco (Go' Danish)
Khaira Arby Timbuktu Tarab (Clermont)
Carmen Souza Kachupada (Galileo)
TriBeCaStan New Songs from the Old Country (Evergreene)
Ellika, Solo and Raphael NOW (Couuntry and Eastern)
Bengt Berger Beches Brew Big (Couuntry and Eastern)
Dreamers' Circus A Little Symphony (Go' Danish Folk)
Hailu Mergia Hailu Mergia and his Classical Instrument (Awesome African Tapes)
Rokia Traore Beautiful Africa (Nonesuch)
Maja and David Nord (Go' Danish Folk)
Den Fule Contrebande (kakafon)
Bulgarian Voices Angelite Angelina (Jaro)
Cigden Aslan Mortissa (Asphalt Tango)
Ray Lema Quintet VSNP (one Drop)
Lala Njava Malagasy Blues Song (Riverboat)
Mats Eden Pastern (Gamalthea)
Mamadou Kelly Adibar (Clermont)
Sidi Toure Alafia (Thrill Jockey)
Titina Titina canta B. Leza (Stern's)
Van Ahn Vanessa Vo Three-Mountain Pass (Innova)


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About RootsWorld: RootsWorld is a world music magazine started in 1993, pretty much at the dawn of the term "world music" as well as the pre-dawn of internet publishing (I suspect this was the first music magazine of any sort published on the www). Our focus is the music of the world: Africa, Asia, Europe, Pacifica and The Americas, the roots of the global musical milieu that has come to be known as world music, be it traditional folk music, jazz, rock or some hybrid. How is that defined? I don't know and don't particularly care at this point: it's music from someplace you aren't, music with roots, music of the world and for the world. OK?

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