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Lionel Loueke, Ferenc Nemeth, Massimo Biolcati: Gilfema

Gilfema, the eponymous debut album from the multi-culti trio of Hungarian percussionist Ferenc Nemeth, Swedish bassist Massimo Biolcati and acclaimed Beninese guitarist and vocalist Lionel Loueke isn’t in any way bad. If this reads as scant praise, it is. It is difficult to fault this gentle fusion of African traditional, European traditional and bebop riffs, but it’s more difficult to find much here to get excited about. The playing is lovely but lacks personality. The songs melt into one another seamlessly, but you’ll be hard pressed to pick out a favorite; after more than a dozen listenings, I still can’t tell how far into the album I am at any given point.

Loueke’s Eddie Harris-esque falsetto scat singing provides an occasional jolt on tracks like “Okagbe” and “Tinmin,” but just before he really cuts loose, Loueke pulls back. One keeps expecting this fecund a blend of talent, style and culture to coalesce into something more impressive or show stopping, but middle-of-the-road world jazz is both what you see and what you get.

Originally Published