Benjamin Escoriza Alevanta!
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Benjamin Escoriza
Alevanta!
Riverboat Records/World Music Network (www.worldmusic.net)

Granada-born Benjamin Escoriza was Radio Tarifa's lead vocalist, so it's no surprise that his solo debut sounds a lot like a Radio Tarifa album. I'm quite fine with that- in fact, I don't know if I would have wanted it any other way. His former band is reportedly no more, and their fusion of flamenco, Moorish, Medieval, Saharan and Latin sounds will be missed. It served them well through four albums (three studio, one live) that will continue to be essential listening as long as there is such a thing as music. Escoriza's rough but oddly sensual and poetic vocal style was integral to Radio Tarifa's success, as was his knack for lyrics both original and based on sources from centuries past. His strengths remain firmly intact on Alevanta! and several of his old bandmates (including wind and reed player/composer Vincent Molino and percussionist Sebastian Rubio) contribute.

The disc starts in a flamenco vein with the instantly snappy "Carambola" before getting down to dissecting and rebuilding many of the sounds that have shaped contemporary Spanish music. Flamenco is the closest thing to a recurring theme, while the other flavors entice and embellish liberally. Molino's unmistakable crumbhorn dances through "Paquita La Guapa," Morocco and Spain embrace on "El Raton" and "Nina" laces an accordion waltz with buzzing Arabic percussion. There are also steps into territory previously untrod by Radio Tarifa, such as the Afro-Cuban feel emerging in the midst of "Rumba Del 14" and "Rap de Marrakech," on which Escoriza's voice squares off against itself over a stinging hip-hop arrangement. So while Radio Tarifa comparisons are as unavoidable as they are welcome, the excellence of Alevanta! also signals the emergence of a solo artist whose past and present pave the way toward a likely brilliant future. - Tom Orr

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