James Shipp's Nós Novo - Strange Sweethearts in America
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James Shipp's Nůs Novo
Strange Sweethearts in America
Shippwrite Music (www.jamesshipp.com)

James Shipp is an American jazz vibraphonist living in New York City. He also enjoys Brazilian music and traditional Irish music, so he decided to put all these interests and influences into one record. As strange as this Ireland-Brazil-jazz combination sounds, Shipp and his band Nůs Novo make it work.

For example, take "The Blacksmith" (which many of us learned from Planxty or perhaps Steeleye Span, or Pentangle depending on one's predisposition). Shipp puts a groovy rhythm behind it that comes partly from samba, partly from Middle Eastern hand-drumming. The lovely vocals stretch the melody, allowing plenty of space for the percussion to come to the fore. Mandolin and guitar provide fills and counter-melodies which add to the arrangement. The result is a "Blacksmith" that can't be properly labeled Irish or Brazilian or jazzy or folky; this new shape is original, musically rich, and satisfying.

Or take the sea shanty "South Australia" (which one is probably supposed to have learned from Ewan McColl or The Clancy Brothers, but which I learned from The Pogues). The Brazilian percussion works nicely here, painting a picture of exuberance for the voyage ahead. This treatment is described in the liner notes as a Bahian street parade, and the band has a lot of fun with it. The tempo is flexible, slowing down a little bit here, speeding up a touch there, giving this rendition an organic feel that matches the street parade analogy and urges the listener to join in and follow along from Bahia all the way around Cape Horn and beyond.

Shipp doesn't stop with traditional Irish source material; this recording includes covers of Thelonius Monk's "I Mean You" and Milton Nascimento's "Ponta de Areia." The settings and arrangements on Strange Sweethearts in America can be quirky and often take surprising turns. For the listener who is ready to go along with James Shipp on this voyage, there's much to be enjoyed; hearing old favorites twisted into new shapes is just the beginning. - Greg Harness

The artists' web site: www.jamesshipp.com

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cd cover

"The Blacksmith"


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