A journey into Africa, an exploration of her blackness is how Jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater describes her latest project Red Earth - A Malian Journey.
The record begins on familiar territory with a punchy, slick version of the Mongo Santamaría composition, Afro Blue. Full of typical Bridgewater energy and effortless flow the opener gives the listener little idea what follows but does showcase the sublime percussion skills of Zoumnana Tereta, Aly Wagué and Ira Colman, omnipresent throughout the album.
We then go into Bad spirits, one of the traditional Malian twelfth century compositions along with the title track and the excellent The Griots. The tone is different and you start to appreciate the extraordinary group of musicians that have been assembled to record this such as Kassé Mady Diabaté, Toumani Diabete and Baba Sissoko. Bridgewater, singing in English, works brilliantly with Ramata Diakité on the soft, moving Mama don 't ever go away. The lyrics are adapted in many cases to give modern nuances to the stories.
My favourite tracks have to be the deep Jazz number Long Time Ago, the Wayne Shorter composition and the blues of Children Go Round, Bridgewater showcases her jaw-dropping versatility as a vocalist on this track.
The range and stunning seductiveness of this album is instantly apparent. Bridgewater tries not to stray too far from her Jazz roots and in a way it is a hindrance; it took a couple of listens for all the tracks to marry together and for me to fully appreciate the brilliance of what I was listening to.
This is a bold, brave and ambitious record that goes far beyond Bridgewater's previous musical territory. I found this sublime listening; sure to go down as one of the records of the year.