Ry-Co Jazz - Bon Voyage! 1963-1977
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Ry-Co Jazz
Bon Voyage! 1963-1977
Retroafric (www.retroafric.com)

One is always tempted to say a band epitomizes a particular style or sound, as the liner notes to this recording do. And of course, sitting in the moment, listening to this sweet and rhythmic guitar music that evolved in an imaginary land that encompasses Congo through Nigeria, Ghana, Paris and eventually the Antilles, I am inclined to agree that Ry-Co Jazz indeed epitomized the African guitar sound of the 60s, at least for the duration of these 13 tracks.

Founded in the late 50s in Congo by Henri Bowane (himself a member of the influential Franco band), Ry-Co refined its guitar inflected rumba sound (itself influenced by many different Latin sounds of the 20s through the 60s), and produced a string of recordings of African rumba and beyond as they formed and reformed in Cameroon, Nigeria and Paris. But it was their move to Antillean musical influences that truly made their sound unique, fusing beguine, merengue and rumba into what would eventually morph into zouk. Their lively take on Caribbean music was a constant throughout their career - the 1963 merengue "Bonne Annee" is exemplary of their early work - but it came to full bloom in their years playing in nightclubs and on cruise ships in and around Guadeloupe and Martinique. The irrepressible sound of "Siouve Moin" and the romance of the bolero "Nostalgie," both recorded just after their return to Paris in 1971, encapsulate all of these influences with perfection.

Back in Paris, they also took on new sounds of soukous, funk, reggae and rock, producing groove-laden tunes in the late 70s that could have been inspired by James Brown, Fela and Bob Marley. They truly were an international band that played "world music" in its most vibrant sense. Bon Voyage! is a marvelous cruise through the peak recorded history of a band often cited as an influence but too little heard. - CF

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