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Africa - Released September 6, 1978 | Mr Bongo

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Africa - Released June 22, 1979 | Mr Bongo

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Salsa - Released January 1, 1995 | Mr Bongo

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World - Released January 1, 1996 | Mr Bongo

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World - Released January 1, 1996 | Mr Bongo

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World - Released January 1, 1996 | Mr Bongo

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Salsa - Released January 1, 1997 | Mr Bongo

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World - Released January 1, 1998 | Mr Bongo

This 1998 release by Brazilian percussion god Dom Um Ramao marks his first solo recording in more than 30 years. Romao has been an in-demand session player since the mid-'60s and was one of the founding members of Weather Report. His own albums on the late, great Muse label, one named eponymously and the other entitled Spirit of the Times, were rhythm orgies that pasted together all of the traditions he'd worked in up until that time: from Sergio Mendes and Sinatra to Flora, Airto, and Weather Report. Rhythm Traveler is a return, of sorts, in that it is an engagement with Brazilian song forms from both folk musics and popular song, all translated through a jazzman's manner of hearing. Romao enlisted the help of some of Brazil's hottest players and singers, including string boss Nelson Angelo, Fabio Fonseco, and the incomparably wonderful Ithamara Koorax on vocals. The track listing is a meld of originals and tunes chosen carefully for the way rhythm interacts with melody, such as Deodato's "Capoeria Chant," Quincy Jones' "Soul Bossa Nova," Wayne Shorter's "Mysterious Traveler," and Carlos Pingarilo's mesmerizing "Samba De Rei." Romao's compositions (he wrote four tunes here, all of them wonderful) center on the various seams of Brazilian music and American jazz. Where the light, breezy samba of Pingarihlo's "De Serra Pro Mar," is driven by a lilting acoustic guitar and flute as a melody frame, Romao layers in a spare, hypnotic bassline and percussion on all the margins of the tune to give it an exotic, captivating effect of being drawn into somewhere delightfully mysterious. Likewise, the steaming opener "Sinistro" is nothing but rhythms from tribal to the present, overlapping and intertwining kick drums and all manner of hand percussion. Ultimately, Rhythm Traveler is as solid as, if not more so than, Romao's earlier efforts and carries within its grooves an accessibility that will attract even novitiate Brazilian fans. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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World - Released January 1, 1998 | Mr Bongo

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House - Released January 1, 2000 | Mr Bongo

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World - Released January 1, 2000 | Mr Bongo

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World - Released February 14, 2000 | Mr Bongo

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World - Released September 25, 2000 | Mr Bongo

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Pop - Released January 1, 2001 | Mr Bongo

This 2000 live date from an appearance at the Jazz Café in London is perhaps the definitive Terry Callier live document. Recorded digitally with a septet behind him, Callier takes the audience through the stages of his long and varied career with the great verve and poise that have made him a legend. From "Ordinary Joe" and "Step Into the Light," Callier sets up his audience for "Lazarus Man," which takes what is already an emotionally charged performance into overdrive. With poignant saxophone and flute solos from Gary Plumley, and in the pocket percussion from Bosco DeOliveira, Callier lets his songs and his voice do the talking. This is a performance of such warmth and intimacy that he cannot help but perform to the best of his ability. There is adoration from the crowd and with each bit of that expression of gratitude, Callier digs deeper into himself as well as his catalog after he introduces a new song, "Late Lament for A.D." (for Amadou Dialo, an unarmed man murdered by the New York City police department in 2000). Callier is not one to take a tragedy and make it the centerpiece of his show, though, and he doesn't somehow; even in the somber, moody darkness of the song's body, Callier seeks with his voice for empathy and redemption. And this is what makes him such a singular artist. He looks deeply within himself for every utterance, every emotion, and expresses it as honestly as possible with the thunder of a gospel preacher and the elegance of a dancer. When Callier moves on to "African Violet," his audience is hushed, silenced by the stunning revelations in the depth of his lament. But he lifts them up as he has brought them to self-reflection, as the confession of intimate love becomes an affirmation of life once again, Callier coasts into "You're Gonna Miss Your Candy Man," a good-natured blues from early in his career. He stays in the past by offering the definitive version of "What Colour Is Love" that drips with sweet honey and an earthiness that is sensual and impressionistic. This opaque reading gives way to a brazen expression of desire and sexuality in "Dancing Girl." Here, too, with the band pumping behind him, Callier reaches into the song and derives from it not only his original inspiration, but all of the experiences he has had in singing it in the past. He can see the faces of those women in clubs and theaters he sang the tune to, and their faces shine through his voice. Finally, Callier pulls out Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready" for a return of balance to the show, wanting to end on a transcendent note. With the crowd literally screaming in "Dancing Girl"'s aftermath, Callier slows it down and does a jazz read of the Mayfield classic -- and they scream even louder (someone even shouts "Hallelujah" and "Amen") before he slips into his final tune, "I Don't Want to See Myself," which features a beautiful duet vocal by Veronica Cowper. It's a stunner -- deep soul, hard groove, and danceable as hell. What a finish. There are other live records by Terry Callier, and all of them have merit, but Alive is the real deal. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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World - Released January 1, 2001 | Mr Bongo

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World - Released January 1, 2001 | Mr Bongo

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World - Released January 1, 2002 | Mr Bongo

After making his recording debut on Farofa Carioca's Moro No Brasil (1997), Seu Jorge left the band and embarked on a solo recording career that commenced with Samba Esporte Fino (2001), his full-length album debut (released internationally in 2002 as Carolina). The best of both worlds, the album's style of samba-funk is thoroughly modern, particularly in terms of its vibrant production, yet still harks back to classic Brazilian samba-funk albums of the 1970s such as Jorge Ben's África Brasil (1976) and Gilberto Gil's Refazenda (1975). The standout opening song, "Carolina," gets the album off to an absolutely rousing start, and the next two songs, "Chega No Suingue" and "Mangueira," are similarly stirring. These first three songs alone make Samba Esporte Fino a compelling debut album: each written by Jorge, they showcase not only his exceptional songwriting skills but also his expressive singing voice and his lively backing band (guitar, bass, drums, percussion, horns, background vocalists). Following the opening run of self-penned songs, Jorge works in a variety of covers, including "Em Nagoya Eu Vi Eriko," a song written by Jorge Ben specifically for inclusion here. Amid these covers, Jorge slots a late-album pair of his own songs, most notably "Funk Baby," a soul-funk gem with a fat bassline and soaring string arrangement. There is a wealth of such highlights on Samba Esporte Fino, an almost entirely upbeat and danceable album that is nonetheless varied in style from one song to the next, musically as well as lyrically. Another plus for the album worth mentioning is the production of Ben in collaboration with Beastie Boys producer Mario Caldato. As aforementioned, it sounds 21st century, particularly the rich basslines and the crisp percussion, yet is still earthy enough to hark back to samba-funk of the 1970s. © Jason Birchmeier /TiVo
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World - Released January 1, 2002 | Mr Bongo

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Pop - Released January 1, 2002 | Mr Bongo

When Terry Callier returned to the music scene as an active participant in 1998, after 20 years in self-imposed exile, he jumped headlong into the recording and touring process. His first two recordings, the fine Timepeace and the less-than-satisfying LifeTime, both had songs worthy of anything Callier ever wrote during the 1960s or 1970s. The live album, Alive on Mr. Bongo from 2001, is a testament to that. But finding a producer who could properly illustrate the vast subtleties in Callier's work, which effortlessly blurs the boundaries between jazz, pop, soul, and poetry, proved difficult in the studio. On Speak Your Peace, Callier has found the perfect working mates in Jean-Paul Maunick and Marc Mac (from 4Hero), two men who understand that his work is more about nuance than statement, sense impression than solid image, poetry than prose. Callier's glorious voice and wonderfully fluid acoustic guitar are front and center in the mixes of both men. Mac accents the skeletal angle of Callier's compositions, as on "Monuments of Mars." He underscores them with gentle rhythms, ambient sounds, well-placed strings, hand drums, and space, allowing the poetic, moral message of Callier's vision to come through unimpeded. Maunick's production techniques, as evidenced on all but three of the album's tracks, ranges; there are the shimmering drum loops on "Running Around," propped by scenic strings and a heavier bassline, that bring Callier's voice to a level above the instrumentation -- and this is fine since he sings with such an authority that it doesn't have to be imposing, so there's no overkill. And then there's the single, "Brother to Brother," which Callier co-wrote with Paul Weller, who joins him in a duet. Everything on the track is spare, full of space and ambience, until the end, where the two voices entwine and a keyboard pulls the rhythm section toward the front. "Caravan of Love" could have been written by Curtis Mayfield and performed by MFSB with backing vocals by Hall & Oates. Yeah, it's that good. As for Callier's compositions, they're stronger than ever. Quoting his words in the context of a review is to belittle their achievement in that they are inextricably wedded to his musical frameworks. (Let's just say that if all pop music were as profound, we would all be activists working for peace and harmony.) The upshot is that this is easily the most seamlessly beautiful and wonderfully consistent recording he's made since his return. There are 14 tracks of ethereal, moving soul, groove, and poignancy that would (or at least should) make Bob Dylan and Smokey Robinson cry. Speak Your Peace rates with Callier's Cadet work in its vision, articulation, and execution. Indeed, on this recording one can hear, in the grain of his voice, a plea for wholeness that could only come from profound heartbreak. © Thom Jurek /TiVo