Whatever may be going wrong in the world, there are always some figures (especially artists) out there reminding us of the importance of community and celebration. Without making a direct statement on the strange circumstances of 2020, this batch of recordings nonetheless offers just the kind of vibrant affirmation the times need.
The Dance She Spoke
There's a lot of common ground (well, figuratively) between characteristics of South American and western African traditions—humble group interplay, love of tricky rhythms, irresistible melody and a spirit of celebration. Duende Libre's third outing starts off bursting with sunshine, and even though the pace eases off in the course of The Dance She Spoke, the rhythm and cheer never do. Samba and tango make part of the basic recipe alongside traditional rhythm patterns that vocalist Frank Anderson learned from the traditions of Mali and Guinea. They hit the ground running with pure Afro-jazz sunshine, then follow up with a slinky piano-drum samba duet as the quintet spices everything up with danceable rhythms and handclaps.
While there's technically a piano trio at the core of the lineup, the group is a quintet rounded out by plenty of cheerful vocals and extra percussion. The mix of worldly tones brings The Dance She Spoke closer to the street carnival than the jazz club. Alex Chadsey's piano lives easily in both those worlds, while you can practically hear Jeff Busch smiling ear to ear as his drums interlock with an abundance of beats and claps. The ryhthm is as natural as a spontaneous public dance, and the crew's exuberance is as contagious as the abundance of handclaps. On this affair Duende Libre more than lives up to the title. This is a dance to be spoken, sung, shouted and anything else as long as it comes straight from the heart and the feet.