Idrissa Diop - Yakar
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Idrissa Diop
Yakar
Tinder Records (www.tinderrecords.com)

cd cover The promotional materials for this disc describe the artist as a "Senegalese jazz funk Latin fusionist," and that's about as apt a description as you're likely to get. Diop followed his musical aspirations from Senegal to Paris, and along the way he wrote songs for Youssou N'Dour, played percussion with Ray Lema and Tyour Gnaoua and had his talent given a stamp of approval on an international scale by Carlos Santana. It was Santana who helped see to it that Yakar was released, and the album is a good mix of styles, tempos and overall sounds. The rockish guitar chords of the opening title track are a bit unsettling, but the hard Afro-funk feel stirs things up and it gets better from there. Along the way are hints of highlife, m'balax, reggae (combined with an almost chanson feel on "Tire Ailleurs"), jazz balladry and yes, a good deal of fusion both distinct and nondescript. There's a modern production style throughout, with traditional elements taking a back seat much of the time. What makes the album work is the way it mixes and matches. "Guenth" ("Dream"), for example, takes swirling violin, Strunz and Farah-like guitar, deft drumming and tightly arranged vocals and gives each a level, danceable playing field. Salsa and Latin jazz form the basis of a few songs, funk bass and blaring horns are urged on by talking drum, and though the electronic keyboards get heavy-handed at times, the grooves retain an unmistakable human touch. Diop's lead vocals have a lightly gravelly feel and are able to soar or lay back as needed. He is also one of a large battery of percussionists credited, accounting for the punchy beats that are a frequent key component. Though there are moments that yearn for less fusion and more focus, Yakar is an invigorating work that drinks from many wells and sounds satisfyingly refreshing as a result. - Tom Orr

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