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Sakesho: Sakesho

For this new group project, steel-pans master Andy Narell teams with keyboardist Mario Canonge, bassist Michel Alibo and drummer Jean-Philippe Fanfant-three outstanding musicians from Martinique and Guadeloupe-to form Sakesho, a jazz quartet that draws inspiration from the musical traditions of the French Caribbean.

Narell may be the best-known member of the ensemble, but as the group’s sparkling self-titled album demonstrates, all four are extraordinary musicians who can play both jazz and the various French Caribbean styles with complete mastery. Nimbly led by Canonge and Narell, “Roule Quadrille” is an irresistibly playful dance number. “Mabouya,” whose title is the Creole word for a big, slow lizard, is based on the chords of Thelonious Monk’s “‘Round Midnight” and features jumpy rhythmic patterns and agile drumming by Fanfant. Canonge showcases his gently expressive side on the ballad “Divini,” and things turn retro on “Karawak Dream,” wherein Narell’s delicate soloing meets Canonge’s pulsing Fender Rhodes. The album closes with “Song for Mia,” a lengthy number that starts out as a graceful, understated melody and builds into a grooving band workout that is capped off by energetic, chanted vocals led by Martinique singer Polo Athanase.

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