Gino Sitson,
Song Zin': Vocadelic Tales
(Piranha, 2002)

Song Zin': Vocadelic Tales is the first American solo CD by Gino Sitson (although he has released a prior album overseas). Gino is a jazz vocalist from West Cameroon in Africa. I would compare him favorably to Bobby McFerrin in that they both use their bodies as primary instruments in the music they make. Gino sings mostly in Bamileke (his native tongue).

Gino's music incorporates traditional African rhythms with Western jazz, gospel and blues, as well as what he calls "vocal acrobatics." Not only does he imitate various instruments with his voice, he also uses his body as a percussive instrument. While this is not entirely unique, Gino does create some interesting music on this CD.

Gino came from a long line of musicians known as tontas, or "players of horns," according to the promotional materials. His mother, who directs a choir as well as sings, introduced him to music at a young age. By the time he was 17, he moved to France to continue his musical education. Currently, he lives in New York.

He explains the title of the CD in the liner notes. In his native tongue, "Song Zin'" means "I'm Gonna Tell You." However, there is a double meaning if you know to look for it. The word "zin'" can also mean "to walk." If you read "song" in English, then "Song Zin'" might be read as "a walking song." In Gino's words, this refers to "a free, daring and inventive song that is going forward, following a path off the beaten track." Gino further explains that tontas were traveling musicians, "walking their music in a way." I found this interpretation rather interesting, since I first thought of the title as simply being cute, yet meaningless.

Most of the 16 tracks on the CD are very light. The African rhythms add an element that is missing in standard jazz. The music is particularly impressive when you consider that most of the instrumentation is body vocalization. It also speaks highly of the musicians and their art that you can easily miss much (but not all) of the "vocal acrobatics," thinking they are regular instruments.

Joining Gino on the CD are Carine Bonnefoy (piano), Noel Ekwabi (acoustic bass), Jean-Baptiste Dobiecki (tenor, soprano sax), Denis Tchangou (drums, percussion), Valerie Belinga (backing vocals), Xenia Caraibe (backing vocals), Joelle Esso (backing vocals) and Annabelle Alaga (spontaneous lyrics/spoken voice), plus special guests Mario Canonge (piano), Orlando Poleo (percussion), and Vincent Segal (cello).

Song Zin': Vocadelic Tales is a decent jazz CD if you like your music sprinkled with a touch of Africa. This won't be the best CD you buy, but it will more than likely be better than your average purchase.

[ by Wil Owen ]
Rambles: 23 November 2002

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