(Head's Up, 2002)
Sakesho is the name of the quartet, three of whom were born in the French Caribbean, and the music they perform is born of "biguine," a form of highly syncopated, polyrhythmic music native to Martinique and Guadeloupe. Their name evolved from an order of hot sake in a Japanese restaurant in Paris, the request in French for "sake chaud" corrupting to the Creole "sa ke sho," or "It's gonna be hot!" This was incorporated into an improvised vocal chant by pianist Mario Canonge and instantly became adopted as the lyric for the tune and the name for the band, whose other members are bassist Michel Alibo, drummer Jean Phillipe Fanfant and, on steel pan, Andy Narell.
Narell is a serious student of Afro-Caribbean music, and the combination of musical backgrounds and interests has led to the production of this fine CD. As a bonus, the disc is also a multimedia CD-ROM, complete with interactive access to artist profiles, previous recordings, tracks from the album and a chance to enter a competition.
The sound is jazz, predominantly, but with the intriguing difference of the steel pan bringing unexpected flavour and flair. The album opens with the vibrant and energetic "Kon Djab Djigidji," an Afro-Cuban groove written by Canonge. It is followed by the sprightly "Roule Quadrille," where piano and steel pan race to outdo each other in speed and rhythm. A chance to recover your breath is offered with the sedate opening of "Laventille," a calypso-style jazz number, with strong performances again by both Canonge and composer Narell. Alino's composition "Grand Fabrice" is a complex tune, with frequent timing changes throughout its near eight-minute length; it gradually builds from the predominance of a gentle steel pan to incorporate all the considerable talents of the band.
The intuitive may recognise the influence of Thelonious Monk or Herbie Hancock, and there is a definite jazz feel to the CD, but every so often the biguine of the French Caribbean overwhelms the apparent familiarity and sparks a new interpretation and a spicier sound. The album is brought to a resounding close by 12 minutes of "Song for Mia," with guest singer Polo Athanase leading on the end chant vocals, the musical roots of Martinique producing fantastical exotic flowers of sound. Sakesho should appeal to those who enjoy jazz, beguine, steel pan or a variety of complementary sounds and rhythms. It brings striking colour and exuberant warmth to the listener.