Tuesday, March 20, 2007

C.D. Review: The Bongolian - Blueprint

The Bongolian is the alter-ego of Nasser Bouzida, from the English funk outfit Big Boss Man. On his 2003 self-titled solo debut, The Bongolian played and wrote all the music himself. On Blueprint, Nasser the Bongolian has recruited his new touring band to help out. With drummer Reinis Axelssonon and guitarist Jerry Haglund, along with fellow Big Boss Man alumni Trevor Harding on bass, The Bongolian has put together a tight little funk band. Nasser plays keyboards, bongos, and other percussion.
One's first impression of this concept might be of the Incredible Bongo Band who were based in Vancouver in the early seventies, but The Bongolian owes more to French recording artist Jean Jacques Perry than to the Incredible Bongo Band. Many of the instrumentals that make up Blueprint have the Perry-sounding ephemeral keyboard and drum interplay with a sprinkling of bells and chimes.
Occasionally, the music toughens up. There are some fine Dennis Coffey style flourishes on this disc as well, most notably "Del Ray" with its fuzzy guitar and pounding drums. "Psyche Yam" is another pounding number that has a restrained but ongoing bass line that sounds like something John Entwistle might have played at top volume for an instrumental like "The Ox".
The sound-scape motif is never far away on Blueprint though, and the funk is often muffled by the ephemeral keyboard playing. Nasser Bouzida is a decent keyboard player in the spirit of Robert Walter or early Azimuth for that matter, but the keyboard riffs rarely intensify enough to justify their prominence throughout this c.d. At their best, the keyboards recall Booker T Jones on tracks like "Soul Caravan", while other tunes find the keyboard's wafting gets in the way of serious funkiness. Blueprint closes with a track called "Routemaster Ride" which piano leads that sound like Parliament's "P-Funk Chant".
Overall, Blueprint is a funky enough record, but it sounds like one to play on low volume at a cocktail party, rather than a disc to crank for a sweaty dance floor. Nasser and this band sound like a collaboration between Booker T & the M.G.'s and Jean Jacques Perry; for that sort of musical mood, Blueprint fits the bill perfectly.

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