New albums from Catherine Bent and
Molly Tigre in stores today, 5/18

World music lovers should head out to their favorite record store today to pick up two great new recordings. Catherine Bent is a cello player and her new album, Ideal, explores the world of Brazilian choro music from a new perspective. Brooklyn’s Molly Tigre’s eponymous debut is a different animal entirely as it asks the musical question—what would the desert blues of Mali sound like if no guitars were involved?

Bent is a Berklee College of Music professor who found herself in Brazil, with no Portuguese to speak of available to her, but she quickly was embraced by the choro community in Rio de Janeiro. Choro is an old style that predates the samba and bossa nova for which Brazil is best known. It’s string-based music, so even though Bent didn’t speak the language, her instrument did the communicating for her.

Ideal features original compositions by Bent that she tackled after first fully immersing herself in Brazilian music and culture over a couple of summers. The musicians on the album represent some of the best choro players in Brazil.

The songs are not exactly choro in its original form, although they retain many of the elements. The six and seven-string guitars are present representing the tradition, but with her cello dominating on many of the tunes, she truly explores the expressive possibilities and expands upon what some would consider a hidebound genre.

Speaking of exploring possibilities, Molly Tigre’s debut is one of the more interesting albums I have heard recently. The desert music of Mali and certain parts of Ethiopia has been all the rage lately due to the success of veteran musicians like Ali Farka Touré, more recent bands like Tinariwen, and the cult record series Ethiopiques.

But much of that music is guitar-based. In fact,Touré’s music has been compared to the American blues so much it has become a cliché. So what happens if you play music inspired by those sounds and rhythms without the guitar? The answer is the horn-driven music of Molly Tigre.

“I wanted to bring together some of the music and styles from Northern Mali and certain regions in Ethiopia, like Tigray,” the genesis of the band’s name, notes bassist and co-founder Ezra Gale.

“I hear a lot of commonalities between them, like the pentatonic scales that are similar sounding. The fact that the rhythms they are using are based around groups of six. When I started playing the music side by side, I thought it was fascinating and I wanted to mash them together.”

Sounds rather academic and music school geek, right? But give the album a listen and the funky, soulful groove is what you’ll actually hear.

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