Michael League, guiding light of the iconic ensemble Snarky Puppy and now Bokanté, is a musician who continues to challenge the musical norm of what artists from diverse cultural landscapes can achieve when their singular artistry collides. He is not like Bill Laswell, the great guerrilla of musical art who has pre-dated even Banksy in virtually every department (shock, aesthetics, poetry of form, etc.) by a number of years. Although Mr League – who is also, incidentally, a bassist – seems to have a penchant for making music “in the light” as opposed to Mr Laswell’s “subterranean-noir” style which often shocks one’s sensibilities out of a kind of cultural somnambulism one often finds oneself stuck in, his (Mr League’s) music is also striking albeit of a different sort and this often has to do with the lyricism that Mr League is able to find and bring to light in almost everything that he creates.
What Heat by Bokanté has just that kind of magical effect on the senses that comes with everything Mr League has produced so far. But it also has that “certain something” – a “Bigness” that is achieved by setting this repertoire amid the rich backdrop of the Metropole Orkest conducted by Jules Buckley. The celebrated Dutch orchestra is less well-known than the WDR Big Band – more than a tad unjustly, perhaps – but it is a formidable ensemble comprising a symphony orchestra component and a Jazz big band. As in every instance its conductor Jules Buckley is (here) absolutely inspirational.
The repertoire on this recording is one of a kind. It is born of Afro-Caribbean music melded in with a breathtaking array of other styles from New Orleans to Haiti and elsewhere and is sung in a mélange of French and Antillean Creole with mesmerising and beckoning swagger by the sultry Québecoise vocal sensation Malika Tirolien who brings her uniquely seductive Guadeloupean lyricism to bear on this dramatic music. (Although Miss Tirolien is Canadian, her ancestry is Guadeloupean and she grew up in an artistic environment. Her grandmother played the piano, her grandfather was the poet Guy Tirolien and her father, a history teacher, was also a self-taught multi-instrumentalist). And her artistic heritage is a prominent reason for the singular beauty of this music. But there are other reasons for its beauty. Mr League, no longer fettered (when was he ever?!) to his electric bass contributes enormously to the music with some syhthesizer-generated atmospherics and superb performances on a myriad of instruments. A big part of the impact of this music also comes from percussion, the great colourists Jamey Haddad, Keita Ogawa and André Ferrari.
Finally the music’s truly prismatic dimension comes to pass because of the starring role of Roosevelt Collier. His ululating dobro lines are luminous and graceful. Add to that the musicality and power of his vocals and you suddenly have such music as “Famm” and “Bòd Lanmè Pa Lwen” beaming at your senses with a dark and eerie beauty that will leave you with that proverbial tingling in the spine that comes only very rarely, when all the elements of music come together and are then lit with that magical spark that takes it all to another rarefied realm.
And it is all of the above that ultimately contributes to making this album something to absolutely die for.
Track list – 1: All The Way Home; 2: Fanm; 3: Lè An Gadé-w En Zyé; 4: Réparasyons; 5: Bòd Lanmè Pa Lwen; 6: Don’t Do It; 7: Chambre à Échos; 8: La Maison En Feu
Personnel – Malika Tirolien: vocals; Michael League: oud, cümbü?, fretless acoustic bass, electric bass, Minimoog, 12-string acoustic guitar, daf, sumbati, dayera, bendir, riq, tambourine, hand claps and vocals; Bob Lanzetti: 6-string acoustic guitar, 12-string acoustic guitar, baritone acoustic guitar and vocals; Chris McQueen: 6-string acoustic guitar, baritone acoustic guitar and vocals; Roosevelt Collier: dobro and vocals; André Ferrari: concert bass drum, bass drum, frame drum, dayera, goat nails, cymbals, grouse pipe, matchbox, hand claps, tamborim, katak bells, pandeiro, antique chains, crotals, wooden Japanese bicycle bell and shekere piccolino; Jamey Haddad: hadjini, hadjira, djembe, darbuka, shaker, riq, ocean drum, daf, frame drum and hand claps; Keita Ogawa: mushroom drum, ceramic vase, talking drum, bendir, daf, cowbells, the thing, shakers, bells, pandeiro, bass pandeiro and hand claps; Weedie Braimah: djembe and vocals. Metropole Orkest conducted by Jules Buckley; Arlia de Ruiter: 1st violin; Vera Laporeva: 1st violin; Sarah Koch: 1st violin; Denis Koenders: 1st violin; Pauline Terlouw: 1st violin; David Peijnenborgh: 1st violin; Christina Knoll: 1st violin; Casper Donker: 1st violin; Herman van Haaren: 2nd violin; Wim Kok: 2nd violin; Jasper van Rosmalen: 2nd violin; Ruben Margarita: 2nd violin; Robert Baba: 2nd violin; Ewa Zbyszynska: 2nd violin; Merel Jonker: 2nd violin; Norman Jansen: viola; Mieke Honingh: viola; Julia Jowett: viola; Iris Schut: viola; Isabella Petersen/Wouter Huizinga: viola; Emile Visser: cello; Maarten Jansen: cello; Annie Tangberg: cello; Jascha Albracht: cello; Erik Winkelmann: contrabass; Arend Liefkes: contrabass; Tjerk de Vos: contrabass; Mariël van den Bos/Janneke Groesz: flute; Janine Abbas: flute; Marc Scholten: saxophone and clarinet; Paul van der Feen/David Kweksilber: saxophone and clarinet; Leo Janssen: saxophone and clarinet; Sjoerd Dijkhuizen: saxophone and clarinet; Max Boeree/Nils van Haften: saxophone and clarinet; Pieter Hunfeld: horn; Felix Peijnenborgh: horn; Lies Molenaar/René Pagen: horn; Jan Oosting: trombone; Martijn Sohier: trombone; Jan Bastiani: trombone; Martin van den Berg: bass trombone; Eddy Koopman: orchestral percussion; Murk Jiskoot: orchestral percussion
Released – 2018
Label – RealWorld (CDRW221)
Runtime – 52:16