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Mombasa - African Rhythms And Blues CD (album) cover

AFRICAN RHYTHMS AND BLUES

Mombasa

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.05 | 2 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars This combo took contact with German producer Manfred Schmitz with an already well- defined and rehearsed music realm that married Jazz (but don't say that to leader Lou Blackburn), Rock, and African /Ethnic rhythms. They were quickly recorded (legend has in one day) over an 8-track studio in Cologne, but the resulting album's sound is simply stunning, as is the anonymous artwork on the gatefold sleeve. The group is a brass- oriented quintet, with a drummer and a percussionist. Among the brass used are the trumpet, trombone, flugelhorn, bamboo flute (not a brass, I know) and a variety of African instruments. Despite naming their combo after Kenya's second city and main sea port Mombasa, it appears that none of the musicians were of direct African origins, despite being black-skinned: leader and main songwriter Lou Blackburn is Jamaican and I'm pretty certain most of the others are American or British.

The music is an amazing amalgam that hovers between Nucleus, Santana and Osibisa, but it also rocks/funks out quite wildly. The lead-off track Nairobi (Kenya's capital and first city) starts on a wild bass line before Blackburn's trombone and Jefferson's trumpet trade superb licks and solo over an outstanding rhythm. Massaļ is an even longer track that resembles its predecessor, despite an insisting bass & drum ostinato, but slowly drifts towards African/Mid-Eastern ambiances. Holz is drastically different ogling more towards Far-Eastern music with the bamboo flute and the appropriate percussions: there is also a Japanese-sounding named being thanked in the credits. Actually this Coleman-penned track stands out a bit too much, and despite being fairly short (by the album standard), it tends to overstay its welcome.

Opening on the African chants of Kenia (the German spelling I guess), the flipside presents roughly the same sonic landscapes, venturing wildly into Santana-esque (Caravanserai) and Nucleus-like soundscape but keeping in mind the Osibisa (African) influence at hand. Indeed the short Makishi is filled with African chants (and the typical whistle), wild jungle rhythms and some grandiose brass lines to frame the whole thing up. The closing Shango (some African animism/voodoo deity, I believe) is again on the same canvas as the longer tracks, with Luciano's bass shining, like it has throughout the album, but this time overdubbed and used as a lead instrument.

Released on the small and long-gone Spigelei label, Mombassa's profile remained unfortunately low, but the the first two albums received a Cd reissue on the Sonorama label in the second half of the 00's. Definitely one of the better ethnic jazz-rock albums ever recorded, Mombasa's debut is simply astounding and would deserve the perfect five stars if it wasn't for that dreary "Far-Eastern" thingie that pollute the album's continuity.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |

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