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Djabe - Djabe & Steve Hackett: Back To Sardinia CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.03 | 16 ratings

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4 stars The Jazz/Rock fusion band "Djabe" takes its name from the Akan people of Ghana's language. The word means "freedom". This band plays a mix of jazz and Hungarian/African music. They have worked with Steve Hackett on previous collaborations, including the album "Back to Sardinia" which was released in December of 2019. In the case of this album, which is unique from the collaboration's previous albums, Djabe recorded at the church of Nostra Signore di Tergu. Steve Hackett's schedule made it impossible to join them there, so he recorded his parts separately from Budapest and they were later added to the recordings.

The album starts off smooth and slow as the soft guitar, rolling bass and splashes of muted trumpet, along with airy vocals make you feel like you are alone on a sandy beach watching the waves roll in and you can almost picture yourself standing at the point of view of the album cover. The atmospheric guitar provides the detail needed for the music, playing with a melody and improvising around that. After the title track, "Lonely Cactus" follows with the same atmosphere as the previous track. However, there are some obvious traditional Hungarian elements brought into the music. Steve's guitar also shifts to a more aggressive sound and later in the track, the mute is taken off of the trumpet. "Happy Tergu" focuses more on the trumpet and features a lively rhythm that also brings more of the African element into the picture. "Lake By the Sea" continues with the smooth jazz sound with more interplay between the guitar and trumpet and some nice keyboard textures.

At this point, the length of the tracks gets longer as they approach 10 minutes, and the album begins to allow the musicians to have time in the spotlight, and you get the feeling things are loosening up as the music becomes a bit more freestyle and improvisational. In "Girl in the Palau Woods", the trumpet passes to the guitar which in turn passes to the keys and then back to the guitar, and at this point, the intensity builds and builds to a surprisingly heavy jam that stands out even more against the previous mellow-ness of the album. It all comes back together as the soft, airy vocals tie it back to the album again. "Walking Around" follows, and more western elements get added in as the guitar recalls the sound of a western movie soundtrack and the music softly meanders along freely. The track continues this way until past the midway point, where again intensity build at a lower level than the previous track, but allows for Hackett's solo work to come in.

"Flying Kites" returns to the more melodic based sound, but allows the band's guitarist to show off this time. After this solo, Hackett provides his own solo, and then the piano gets to have some time alone, and then later backs up the muted trumpet. The sound remains calm and smooth through this track. "Purple Dream" is a short, atmospheric piece. "Dancing in a Jar" provides another highlight for the album as it relies more on traditional elements and retains a nice riff that backs up mysterious sounding bass and brass. This track is the only one that Hackett does not participate in, allowing for a nice and unique sounding track to stand out on the album. The track has a nice Hungarian beauty to it all, and I swear there are flutes and clarinet in there, or at least some kind of reed instrument.

"Cinquecento Fragole" stretches out it's run-time to again allow for more interplay and improvisation among the musicians, Hackett's soloing standing out again, but still not taking it all over completely. Halfway through, the music shifts as all the instruments stop and allow the piano to play alone in a freestyle jazz solo with only occasional cymbal rolls backing it up. At 7 minutes, the full band kicks back in to finish with a trumpet solo followed by a short drum solo and then a more wild jazz climax. "Bottles in the Water" is a short track sandwiched in between the two long tracks with wave and seagull effects that ties in the last track "Floating Boat". This finishes the album the way it begins, with a smooth and floating jazz sound, but in this case it allows for more freestyle playing, and again the instruments all get a chance to have their say. It all ends with some banter between Hackett and the band.

This is a nice album which mostly centers on a smooth jazz sound with occasional wilder outburst in a few tracks and a nice tradeoff of some melodic based tracks and others that are more freestyle, but overall, the main mood is smooth and flowing jazz. Hackett's addition to the music is excellent and give it more power, and the addition of the one track without Hackett allows for the band to shine and show off it's unique sound. Even though there are some of the traditional folk-ish elements evident at times, it is one thing that tends to lack a bit in this album, and that is missed, however, it is still enjoyable and relaxing. It can work well as background music or for serious, more concentrated listening, though some might find it isn't quite variable enough. However, it is still an excellent album and is also another album where we can admire Steve Hackett's talent, yet he never tries to outshine the band either, but becomes one with them.

TCat | 4/5 |


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