Upon first glance, Riyel (pronounced "ree-yell") is a jazz trio that seems simple in its instrumentation of trumpet, trombone, and electric bass guitar. But with the addition of many extra friends, this band based in Haiti is much more powerful and resilient, just as the people who survived their earthquake-ravaged island nation. With American expatriate Ken Watters (son of the late and famous Harry Watters) alongside Andre Atkins and Yves Abel, this band creates a smorgasbord of ethno-funk, tapping on traditions from Port Au Prince, other Caribbean locales, and Africa itself. Very similar to bands like Antibalas or Nomo, Riyel plays exuberant, celebratory music, good for dancing and staying in the present. While many tracks come alive with the rhythm & blues-styled horns that shout out and leap from the speakers, trumpeter Watters is in many instances the focal point. His composition "Sommerset Road" and the Abel/Atkins contribution "Big Money" both groove in a tribal manner reminiscent of South African township jazz, but done in a purely Haitian dialect. Some choral music, sweeter waltz sounds, pronounced clarion horns, and Abel's popping bass are also accounted for. What one might not expect is the heavy and loud Led Zeppelin tune "Four Sticks" done in 5/4 time, or a version of the modal Joe Henderson fusion era, wah-wah-infused "Black Narcissus," or trombonist Atkins going vocal for Hector LaVoe's "Aguanile." From one surprise to the next, with a good-time feeling always present, Riyel has come up with one of the most stunning and joyous world music projects of the 2010s -- and a tribute to the indomitable spirit of their otherwise ravaged and horrified people. Profits from the sale of this CD will go to the Haitian Relief Fund, another positive aside to this extraordinary musical effort.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos