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Review: Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band, Live

Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band
Chopteeth Live
[Grigri Discs (2010)]

Dynamic brass, infectious poly-rhythms, steady bass lines, swirling organs, slinky guitar rhythms and great vocals (in a variety of languages) has placed the West Africa-influenced Chopteeth Afrofunk Band at the forefront of the Washington-Maryland-Virginia music scene. Two years after their debut album took the area by storm and garnered them six Wammie Music awards including “artist of the year,” the 14-piece band is back with “Live,” a sizzling sampling of their high-energy shows. Recorded Washington, DC’s Black Cat, Rock and Roll Hotel, and The 9:30 Club, the 10-track CD is burns hotly right from the first tune, a hard-propelling treatment of Nigeria-born multi-instrumentalist, composer, political activist, and a pioneer of Afrofunk, Fela Kuti’s (1938-1997) “J.J.D.” The hard driving rhythms of Nigeria are at the heart of most tunes, especially Kuti’s “Question Jam Answer,” his son Femi Kuti’s “Traitors Of Africa,” and Nigerian trumpeter Peter King’s politically charged “Freedom Dance.” But the influences of Nigeria are balanced by tunes from Ghana, Senegal, and the Congo and influences as varied as the Afro-salsa sounds of “Choferito-Plena,” by Ignacio Rios via Marc Ribot, and the French lyrics of Tabu Ley Rochereau’s “Gagne Perdu.” There’s even a rendition of a little-known Duke Ellington tune, “Didjeridoo,” featuring trombonist Craig Considine.

—Craig Harris (Chicopee, MA)

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