Nunca Tarde – A round-up of recent new albums (Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti & Frank Rosaly, Black Roots, Tinto Tango, Céu, Rubel, MNTH and more)

By 16 May, 2024

There’s a whole raft of interesting new releases this month, so I’ll get right down to it. No messing about; keep it pithy, man!

Amina Mezaache & Maracuja: Vortex (Veston Léger)

If you like the flute – especially in tandem with percussion, guitar and sousaphone – then this is the album for you. Guests, too, add the occasional rap, trumpet and accordion, but essentially it’s the unusual four-piece line-up that lays down nine numbers replete with choro and other Brazilian musical references. Maracuja’s third album is a homage to the group’s inspiration, Hermeto Pascoal, and if you detect shades of his cohort Itiberê Zwarg’s Orquestra Familia, that’s maybe because leader and flautist Amina Mezaache has played with that estimable outfit. It’s a bright and breezy affair beefed up by the oompah-oomph of the huge, unwieldy sousaphone.

Quadro Nuevo: Happy Deluxe (GLM)

If you’re talking bright and breezy, then this one takes the biscuit. And as individual numbers on this long and delightful album go, they don’t get much happier than “Ada’s Song”. As a lover of the vibraphone, Tim Collins’ solo sends me off to Cloud-Cuckoo Land. Formed by childhood friends in Munich back in 1996, this German band has released umpteen albums and played around (count ’em) 4,000 concerts worldwide. Recorded partly in Rio, the new album was inspired by a tour of Brazil. With shades of samba, bossa nova and choro, it exudes the musical spirit of the country and leaves you feeling thoroughly uplifted and, yes, happy.

John Crawford: Room For Dancing (Elsden Music)

Less nation-specific, but still infused with the spirit of Latin America – on tracks like “Maîte’s Dance”, “Elena’s Dance” and this one, especially – is this new release from the elegant British pianist, John Crawford. There’s plenty of room for dancing, with Andres Ticino’s Latin percussion helping to keep things upbeat, but some exacting time signatures, the leader’s piano and Shirley Smart’s prominent cello lend it at times a more classical, cerebral feel. The album, a combination of instrumentals and (two) songs, proved to be the last waltz of the tasteful British drummer, Simon Pearson, who died in his mere middle age around the time of the album’s release.

Black Roots: Roots (Nubian Records)

While in Britain… In my ‘umble, Bristol’s Black Roots represent England’s primary reggae outfit. The 18-song-long album, like their previous releases, is resolutely old skool, with punchy horns, strong tunes and vocal harmonies conjuring up echoes of the Mighty Diamonds, Congos, Gladiators, Culture, Misty In Roots et al. Reggae in other words as Jah Rastafari might have decreed it. You can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can gauge this album’s worth by this here righteous song…

Tinto Tango: ALMA – Tinto Tango Plays Piazzolla (Nacional Records)

Here’s one for all you lovers of the drama of tango. And lovers, of course, of the Argentinean master composer, Astor Piazzolla. Award-winning group Tinto Tango reinterpret his music with verve, gusto and theatrical panache on their latest release. Here’s the album’s opener, which will give you a pretty good idea of what I mean.

Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti & Frank Rosaly: MESTIZX (International Anthem/Nonesuch)

It’s not often that a release from that radical-chic Chicago label, International Anthem, qualifies for a mention on a Latin website, but this “de-colonial Latinx” new album definitely fits the bill. All kinds of Latin-world influences – bomba, plena and cumbia to name but three – collide or coalesce with punk, electronic and free jazz rhythmic elements. It’s a veritable gumbo that defies categorisation, born (I am told) from a “joyous and fiery reaction to the apocalyptic consequences of colonialism.” The Bolivian-born singer and her expat jazz-drummer husband make their London debut at Church of Sound on June 7th. Not to be missed, I’d suggest. Meanwhile, check out an album that’s a little weird, sonically unsettling and rather wonderful.

Boogát: Del Horizonte (Ray-On/Believe)

And now for a bit of Boogát. Son of Mexican and Paraguayan parents, the Canadian-born singer, producer and rapper plies his trade in Spanish, French and English. He has collaborated with the likes of La Yegros, Bial Hclap, Kid Koala and many more, and appeared in the past on these pages, so his new 17-track album warrants our notice. As befits a wealth of collaborators, there’s a welcome variety throughout – he also blends a bit of Haitian Creole, Yoruba and Arabic into the mix – and plenty to like.

Céu: Novela (Urban Jungle/ONErpm)

To Brazil now via Los Angeles. That sultry songstress Céu recorded her sixth studio album in the city of angels with the guiding hands of producers Pupillo and Jazz Is Dead’s Adrian Younge. It’s already nearly 20 years since her award-nominated eponymous debut catapulted her into the mainstream and international renown. Some of her subsequent releases have been a little mixed, but this one has a lovely easy, almost extemporised feel about it, a testimony to Adrian Younge’s ethos of live-on-tape production. Among the collaborators are Digable Planets’ LadyBug Mecca, the revered Marcos Valle and the Franco-Senegalese singer (here), anaiis.

Zaccai Curtis: Cubop Lives! (Truth Revolution Recording Collective)

“Cubop” was the label given to the Bebop high priest Dizzy Gillespie’s ground-breaking excursions into Afro-Cuban jazz prompted by saxophonist Mario Bauzá and the doomed and legendary percussionist, Chano Pozo. Backed by a splendid rhythm section of Luques Curtis on bass, percussionist Camilo Molina and drummer-percussionists Willie Martinez and Reinaldo De Jesus, the educator and dynamic pianist Zaccai Curtis explores the confluence of Bebop and Afro-Cuban music on this invigorating mix of his own compositions and numbers both synonymous with the time (such as “Moose The Mooche” and “52nd Street Theme”) and surprising (“Maple Leaf Rag”). Curtis suggests that he “wanted to make a period piece album that brought a new perspective to an older style.” He succeeds unreservedly. Cubop definitely lives.

Rubel: As Palavras Vol. 1 & 2 (Mr. Bongo)

However, I do have certain reservations about this one. While giving thanks to Mr. Bongo for bringing them to international attention, I’m left with a slight feeling that the Rio-based singer-songwriter tries to do a little too much in the 20 tracks that stretch across these two records. There are almost as many genres referenced as there are acclaimed collaborators (Bala Desejo, Ana Frango Elétrico, Tim Bernardes and Milton Nascimento among others lend a helping hand): forró, samba, pagode, MPB, baile funk, hip-hop all entwine in a meeting of music traditional and modern. When it works, it works beautifully (as it does here). When it doesn’t, well… better luck next time. Meanwhile, there are some choice goodies to pick out of this mixed bag.

Moreno Veloso: Mundo Paralelo

Co-written by Tiganá Santana, the title track leaves you in no doubt as to what to expect from this distinguished album. If my very limited Portuguese doesn’t deceive me, it’s the first album from the son of Caetano and godson of Gal Costa since 2014’s Coisa Boa. The singer-songwriter from Salvador recorded this tardy follow-up partly in Rio and partly in Lisbon – in the studio of Domenico Lancellotti, his ex-band-mate in Domenico + 2. The producer’s right-hand man, Ricardo Dias Gomes, and Azymuth’s Alberto Continentino are among others involved. Allied to some discreet and often distinctive arrangements (the combination of Jacques Morelenbaum’s ever-tasteful cello and the berimbau on “Unga Dorme Nesse Frio” is a clever stroke of originality), some beautiful melodies and Veloso’s delicate voice leave you wondering why on earth we don’t hear more from him. Quality-wise: like father, like son, I’d suggest.

MNTH: Lume Púrpuro (Desmonta)

It’s a MNTH of surprises and no mistake. Actually, the Luciano Valério is quite well known to this site as MNTH, the experimental musician and producer from Guarulhos, São Paulo, and his recent beguiling “Inclinação ao Silêncio” was featured in Prezident Markon’s new singles round-up. His fourth album is indeed full of sonic surprises. Spinning sounds, colours, patterns and noises evoke sensations intended, the artist stresses, to “immerse the listener in a meditative state, opening up new perceptions and unique paths.” It does indeed. “Beguiling” is the operative word.

Selton: Gringo Vol. 1 (Island Records/Universal Music Italiá)

One more from Brazil and that’s yer lot. By way of complete contrast, the trio’s seventh album offers up a dish of thoughtful, bittersweet pop music. Based now in Milan for the last 15 years, the trio from Porto Alegre in Brazil started their career playing Beatles’ songs on the streets of Barcelona. As part of their work with the British producer Ricky Damian, they spent a day recording in the Abbey Road studios. The album was also recorded in Damon Albarn’s Studio 13. Among the guests who assisted was a certain Ney Matogrosso… One has to ask, though, what is this thing they have with the colour green?

Various Artists: Discomoda Salsa de Venezuela 1964-1977 (Olindo Records)

We’ll wind up with a couple of splendid compilations. The first retrieves gems from the Discomoda label’s vaults in a survey of Venezuela’s so-called golden age. Taking the form of a double LP of 21 vocal and instrumental tracks by artists like Nelso y sus Estrellas, Principe y su Sexteto and the splendidly named Microbanda Marabina, it offers red-hot salsa with a distinct Venezuelan twist. It’s that certain South American je ne sais quoi that arguably sets it apart from some of the more formulaic stuff emerging from New York at that time. Here’s what you can expect…

Various Artists: Cumbia Cumbia Cumbia!!! Vol. 2 (Vampisoul)

Here’s a monster from Munster Records of Madrid to finish. Following Vampisoul’s first volume of solid-gold cumbia collected from the Discos Fuentes label, the second serves up 28 more Colombian treasures as a double LP taken from Codiscos and its associated labels, Costeño, Zeida and Famoso. They were all released between 1962 and 1983 – which should give a clue as to the generic variety on offer. As for the quality of the music, I don’t want to pre-empt my review for Songlines‘ forthcoming 200th issue, save to say that these marvels from Medellín will get your legs in a spin. Super stuff!

Phew! I don’t know about you, but I’m plum tuckered-out after that little lot. See you next month with some more new and not-quite-so-new releases.

Follow Sounds and Colours: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Mixcloud / Soundcloud / Bandcamp

Subscribe to the Sounds and Colours Newsletter for regular updates, news and competitions bringing the best of Latin American culture direct to your Inbox.