wed 21/02/2024

CD: Bansangu Orchestra - Bansangu Orchestra | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Bansangu Orchestra - Bansangu Orchestra

CD: Bansangu Orchestra - Bansangu Orchestra

Joyous noises and fascinating rhythms from remarkable band of London's finest

An all-inclusive aesthetic: Bansangu Orchestra

This gloriously feel-good album offers irresistibly catchy hooks, a myriad of musical influences handled with an unruffled ease, plus a communicative power that thrills at every turn.

Penned by the orchestra's MD and co-founder, multi-instrumentalist Paul Booth, album opener "Cross Channel" typifies the band's all-inclusive aesthetic, careening as it does between darbuka-fuelled rhythms and Afro-Cuban grooves of enormous heft, with pianist Alex Wilson's left hand driving the music to its inexorable climax. As evidenced by the freewheeling dialogue between Jonathan Mayer's sitar and Jason Yarde's soprano sax on "The Long Road", this is a band of stellar jazz soloists. Pianist Wilson's homage to Afro-Colombian music, "Currulao Cool", sees the band taking flight over some wickedly in-the-pocket percussion, with Shanti Paul Jayasinha on flugel and Wilson himself delivering exquisite, quicksilver solos and the horn section creating a wall of sound of life-affirming puissance.

The album's sole vocal number is a standout too, in the form of guest Oli Rockberger's "My Old Life", a track from the singer-songwriter's excellent 2017 album Sovereign, whose metrical sleights of hand, rolling groove and harmonic sophistication sound even more persuasive when clothed in their new orchestral garb. Whether its the polyrhythmic delights of "Takes Three To Samba", the folky timbres of "The Village", or the astonishingly beautiful and virtuosic (yet light as air) kora playing of Seckou Keita on "Choice Is Yours", the orchestra's arrangements seem to be ever alert to providing both ear-catching detail and a palpable sense of space. 

Trumpet and flugel player Kevin Robinson is no stranger to The Doors' "Light My Fire", having previously arranged the song for Jazz Jamaica All Stars. His adaptation for Bansangu will surely leave no heart unwarmed. Composed by one of the band's five trombone players, Trevor Mires, and underpinned by the impossibly crisp snare hits of drummer Rod Youngs, "The Reason" signs off this affecting album on a note of rapturous funkiness.

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