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Gino Sitson
Song Zin'... Vocadelic Tales
Piranha, Germany (www.piranha.de)

cd cover Singer Gino Sitson, long a Paris resident and now New York based, cultivates a vocal style variously recalling Slam Stewart, Eddie Jefferson, Jon Hendricks, Al Jarreau and Bobby McFerrin. Having grown up in a musical family for whom blues, jazz and traditional African music were vital influences, Sitson jestingly calls himself an "unidentified vocal object," an indication of how his musical conception moves beyond earlier proponents of vocalese (whose lyric lines are written to and sung like instrumental jazz solos).

Listen!
"Ngoyak"
Courtesy of Piranha
Born in Cameroon and Sorbonne-trained in ethnomusicology and languages, Sitson cultivates a palpable West African sensibility that gives his music its distinctive yet wholly cosmopolitan character. As a gauge of his talents, in the studio he has backed the likes of Manu Dibango, Lucky Dube, Youssou N'Dour, Brice Wassy and Papa Wemba, has toured widely in Europe with his own jazz-oriented group, and now appears at high-profile New York venues like the Knitting Factory and Carnegie Hall.

The artistic decision to sing in his native Medumba, one of Cameroon's many indigenous languages, reflects Sitson's view of music as a medium that resonates with body and soul, beyond the culturally and linguistically specific limits of human communication. He writes in the album notes, "I have crossed many borders and have become a kind of blend myself - even though I remain imbued with my Cameroonian roots." Inspired by the linguistic economy of West Africa's tonal languages, Sitson says that understanding the Medumba lyrics is "not important... the tone of my voice is talking by itself."

This is a passionate, even metaphysical claim. But the meditative virtuosity of Sitson's solo (multi-tracking) work ("Ngoyak," "Pretty C," "Vocassiko," "Passing," "Complex City") is clear, and his voice conveys a pristine, complex instrumental tonality with his backing quartet (saxes, piano, bass, drums-percussion); an added treat is guest Mario Canonge, the superb jazz pianist from Martinique (a zouk-ish "La Moun"; the Latin jazz setting of "Lensin'"). Song Zin' means literally (in Medumba) "I'm going to tell you." Figuratively, however, the phrase can also be interpreted as "a walking song," a reference to the traveling Ntonah (horn players and storytellers) of his home region. Combining connotations, the title becomes a metaphor of the inventive perambulation of world-jazz-as-human-narrative that inspires this arresting recording, revealing Sitson as a musical raconteur and sonic border-crosser of the first degree. - Michael Stone

CD available at cdRoots

Artist's web page: www.ginositson.com

Audio of "Ngoyak" courtesy of Piranha Musik, Germany


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