Ten Shades of Blues

A short a cappella intro in a sirius shade of sky blue with rich, complex harmonies, à la Take Six, opens the CD. The next shade blends Indian classical with Afro-Pop, not a common fusion. The blues continue deeper with an R&B shuffle reminiscent of Stevie Wonder. Steel-string guitar with a tinge of twang is marbled into Richard Bona’s signature sound on cut four. Distinctive Afro-Pop rhythms drive track five, a heavy Cameroonian beat, its weight belied by Bona’s inherent smoothness which casts its hue throughout the entire album. The mid point peaks with a Latin inflected beat; clearly revealing that the origins of Latin rhythms are rooted in Africa. Passing to the second half, Richard charms us with an unapologetically Nashville tint—fiddle and banjo and all. The shades turn indigo with a Fula flute intro; makes me think of Ian Anderson. Brushes on the trap set keep the soaring sonorities light and flowing on “Esukudu.” Then on to a blue-blue, Motown throwback, 1960s, 12/8, Hammond B3 take, but this ain’t your daddy’s music—it’s fresh, it’s the Twenty-Teens, and the only cut with vocals in English. Whether English or Douala, it doesn’t matter. Bona’s language is universal. Another triplet beat track follows—all parts played by Bona, guitar, bass, drums, percussion and samples—leading us into the final cut, a Jazz fusion 7/4 finish. The album title tells it straight, ten tracks, ten colorful hues. Although, this dry listing of tracks doesn’t do justice to the music. It’s not getting across how outstanding this CD is, and not just the CD; Bona is exceptional.

Essentially, his music is Afro-Pop, but don’t shove him into a corner. He’s a musician in the broadest sense and in the highest sense. Each track presents another shade of blues, yet not a single one is true blues. Each is another shade of Richard Bona. He takes us on a tour of his talent and his openness at working a world of influences into the mix. The entire album is an exploration of electro/acoustic, Afro/fusion/Jazz, North/South/East/West.

Well recorded, with a touch of compression—could have gotten an A had there been none—excellent performance, a welcomed addition to my collection.

Eye opening bio [about Richard Bona].

(||) Rating — Music : A ║ Performance : A ║ Recording : B- ║
Richard Bona, The Ten Shades of Blues, Decca Records, 2009

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