For its second album, Benin's Gangbé Brass Band turns up the heat to scorching. The ten-piece outfit, first championed by French band Lo'Jo, follows in a small tradition of African brass, but pushes the whole idea outward. Chanted call-and-response vocals work into horn and percussion lines, all underpinned by a deftly blown euphonium. It's exhilarating stuff, as soulful as anything out of New Orleans (probably the closest American comparison) but with more than a touch of jazz -- just listen to the opening of "Ekui Nawo," which bubbles with Monk-inflected bop before taking a turn back to Africa. But however far the music travels -- and it's very sophisticated in both arrangements and execution -- the heartbeat is absolutely African, propelled by many layers of percussion that create a polyrhythmic spring to keep it all moving. While the band functions primarily as a unit, there are some great individual moments, like Lucien Gbaguidi's sax solo on "Ema Dja," a model of economy and skill. In "Gangbé Vile" they eschew horns altogether and rely on just voices and percussion, and it works perfectly as a statement of intent, before closing with the Western-style march "Guigonon," just because they can. With Togbé, the members of the Gangbé Brass Band have consolidated and developed their ideas to release a thoughtful, mature, and exciting disc.
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AllMusic Review by Chris Nickson