Native Vibe

Spirits

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The son of missionaries who spent the first ten years of his life in Zaire, guitarist Bill Macpherson applies the African rhythms of his early childhood to a tight, punchy Metheny-esque electric guitar sound to create -- with Ghana born bassist Nee Sackey -- a native vibe that is part worldbeat fusion, part smooth jazz. While a lot of today's African-based instrumental music is the purely happy go lucky, Paul Simon Graceland variety, this tandem wisely adds darker moods to its repertoire. So while the overall feel of "Bamboo Spirit" is bouncy and loping, they make sure to texture that joy with the shadowy blues harmony of keyboardist Dave Curtis. "Lay it Down" similarly balances Sackey's cool funk rhythms and Macpherson's happy and folksy melody with Steve Weingart's Fender Rhodes and organ solos. Macpherson does some fancy wah-wah type clicking over Weingart's sly melody-harmony switchoffs between the two retro keyboard sounds. Macpherson goes further into introspection on "So Serene She Sleeps," which features wafting, choir-like vocals and the gently dueling basses of Sackey and album producer (and famed Yellowjacket) Jimmy Haslip. While there's no doubt that Haslip's sense of traditional jazz moods helped create the generally laid-back atmosphere on this album, he lets the duo loose on more joyous expressions like "Scent," on which Macpherson's lead melody rocks hard over a thick urban groove and percussion synth horn accents. Hardcore African music lovers will enjoy the lengthy tribal percussion/chant duet which rings in the experimental final track, "Spirit of the Vibe."

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