Jazzamboka (Album Review)


Jazzamboka (Album Review)

Jazzamboka emerges as a rapturous celebration of the diversity and openness of Jazz enveloping the percussiveness and vibrancy of Congolese music.


By the band's own assertion, Quebec-based JAZZAMBOKA's music is hard to categorize specifically as one genre or another.  Based firmly on a foundation  of Jazz, their music makes liberal use of styles ranging from African, Reggae, Hip-Hop and other styles. The band's website informs us that their name derives from a combination of "Jazz" and "Yamboka", meaning "village" or "country" in the Congolese language of Lingala.  Two of the band members also happen to be of Congolese origin, and there is judicious use of traditional congolese instruments such as Ngoma and Lokole, with additional vocals and melodic inferences emanating from this rich culture.  

It's no surprise, therefore, that Jazzamboka emerges as a rapturous celebration of the diversity and openness of Jazz enveloping the percussiveness and vibrancy of Congolese music.

By any measure, the album is a treat for Jazz and World music fans alike.  From the first track, it's clear that this is a serious - and seriously-good - Jazz album that builds on the esteemed traditions it borrows from, and then stretches to add its own voicings from a multitude of influences within and outside the genre.  Just a minute long, the Zawinul-esque opening track "Introduction" is a 6/4 statement of authority signaling the mastery that is to come in due course. And the album continues on up from there: in the course of twelve luxurious tracks, the quintet displays their technical mastery of their instruments as well as the delicate dynamics that underpin each song.  Sax-man Julien Fillion (mostly with soprano, and on occasion flute) brings forth the sweetness of his instrument, punctuating the luxuriating melodic arrangements of Felix Leblanc's piano and keyboards, with driving bass lines from Emile Farley.  Drummer Noel Mpiaza delivers a solid symphony of hard-driving rhythms and delicate dynamics, and also lends his vocal talents (with some remarkable scatting to boot).  Percussionist Elli Miller-Maboungou adds that extra-special, dynamic Congolese percussion touch with the use of Ngoma (a lot more expressive, dynamically-speaking, than congas).

Other standout tracks include "Trois" (which conjures up images of Michael Brecker's work); "Kimia" (a distinctively Afro-Cuban Jazz feeling here with some great scatting); "The Pace" (a frenetic 7-beat gem with driving percussive touches by Miller-Maboungou throughout); the sweet, melodic. luxurious "Montreal by Night" (including a lovely soprano solo by Fillion); "In The Morning" featuring a Correa-esque keys solo by Leblanc); the intrictely-arranged, fast-paced "Statement" (featuring a brief but melodic bass solo by Farley and a syncopated percussive ending).

All-in-all, a wonderful album that has many different layers and textures to it, deserving of some dedicated, serious listening time. To this writer, it is a gift that keeps on giving.

JAZZAMBOKA is available for download, purchase and streaming from a number of fine online outlets. See links below for details.

Founder, WOBEON

Jazzambuka performed at SXSW2017 in Austin TX at the Elephant Room to a great, well-deserved reception.  Percussionist Miller-Maboungou also performed with Haitian hero Vox Sambou and his band at the festival.


JAZZAMBOKA #thisisnotjazz

JAZZAMBOKA - ShapeShifter Lab NYC

JAZZAMBOKA - Kimia @ Festival des arts de Saint-Sauveur

JAZZAMBOKA Montreal by night