Circle of the Sun

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It may be saddled with the worst band name in the history of recorded music, but Jazzhole nevertheless manages to attract top-notch collaborators and to produce some of the most fun and gently exciting nu jazz around. The group is built around a core trio consisting of singer/songwriter Marlon Saunders, guitarist John Pondel, and keyboardist Warren Rosenstein, which acts as a musical nucleus around which various helpers and side persons revolve in a constantly shifting pattern. On Circle of the Sun, participants include the fine tabla player Naren Budhakar, bassist Dave Inniss and, most strikingly, the wonderful singer Kaïssa Doumbé, who shines on several tracks but really catches your attention with her rendition of the old Leon Russell song "Superstar," which she sings in her native Duala. (The album's other cover version is a subtly rendered downtempo arrangement of Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence"). As for the original material, you could sort of call it mood music -- it's all pretty, gently funky, and sensuous. But musically it's also all genuinely interesting, which makes it more than just mood music. Highly recommended to jazz snobs and soulies alike.

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