Album reviews: Zoe Rahman Trio | Eric Bogle | Kal | Lura | Jack Liebeck | British Sea Power


I'M NOT sure why it has taken a full two years for this live set from London's Pizza Express in 2007 to appear, but if it can't really be regarded as a snapshot of where this talented pianist is now, it is worth the retrospective release. The set list is typical of the music she was playing at the time, light on her own compositions – only the closing Last Note – but peppered with work by pianist-composers she greatly admires, notably Joanne Brackeen and Abdullah Ibrahim. She is accompanied by her regular cohorts Oli Hayhurst on bass and Gene Calderazzo on drums. Her brother, Idris Rahman, joins them on clarinet, including two tracks subsequently recorded for their joint studio release, Where Rivers Meet. Sound is good if a little recessed in places, but the energy and imagination carry the day.





EXPATRIATE Scottish singer and songwriter Eric Bogle is currently trekking around the UK on a final three-month sojourn before giving up on touring. He will be accompanied by regular collaborator John Munro, who both produced and plays on this album. Bogle is likely to be remembered more for his songs than his singing, although he has a decent easy-listening voice with a distinct leavening of country music in his delivery. This is another solid crop of heart-on-sleeve songs on familiar Bogle themes, with an elegiac and often idealistic feel. Bringing Buddy Home is a poignant anti-war anthem of a kind familiar in his repertoire, while Someone Else's Problem is a jaunty ecological protest on the drying up of the Murray River in his adopted homeland of Australia. He signs off with the suitably valedictory The Last Note.




CD-ATR, 13.70

"KAL" means "black" in Romany, but this high-octane performance suggests an infinite variety of mysterious shades. The trademark style of this Serbian Gypsy group is best described as rock'n'Roma, which covers just about everything that can be done by collaging speech, synthesiser, accordion and guitar. Since the speech is in Romany, Serbian and French, and since these musicians flourish the fact that, as true Gypsies, they take what they fancy from every culture they touch, the results are enough to make the brain spin. But very agreeably: the basic sound-world is Balkan in the best sense, with a strong dash of the full-on charm of those Gypsy kings Fanfare Ciocarlia, who interestingly have done their own take on a song by Kal's leader Dragan Ristic. All his musicians cut their teeth by playing the clubs along the Danube: the result is a music which always feels vibrantly alive.




IF THE above makes you feel you want to cool your head, this CD is the ideal antidote. The gorgeously leonine Lura may have been bred in the Creole quarter of Lisbon, but her parents were Cape Verdean, and that is the culture she grew up in.

Born in 1975 – the year her country won its independence from Portugal – she found herself drawn as a teenager into the singing tradition then dominated by the great Cesaria Evora and she is now the brightest of the young Cape Verdean singers to have emerged in her wake.

She likes to mock the cosiness of morna – Cesaria's down-home song-form – and she's made a big thing out of reviving her country's other forms, but this record shows her moving inexorably closer to Cesaria's style, swooping lazily down on to the notes and holding them with the same plangency.




SONY, 13.70

VIOLINIST Jack Liebeck, whose playing is distinctively bright and characterful, seems a mightily attractive proposition where Dvorak's breezy Violin Concerto is concerned. And he doesn't disappoint in this all-Dvorak disc which also includes the warm-hearted Violin Sonata in F along with the playful innocence of the Sonatina in G.

For the concerto he is joined by Scots conductor Garry Walker and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Walker plays it straight and cool. While that affords Liebeck ample space to assert his own personality and control, it also leaves Dvorak's radiant orchestral writing a tad short in matching sparkle, particularly in the scene-setting tutti interludes. So the ear invariably tunes into Liebeck and a performance that finds equal enjoyment in the ruminating luxury of the adagio as it does in the spirited buoyancy of the outer movements. The best moments are in the increased heat of the folk-charged finale, where Walker notches the RSNO temperature up a few degrees.

Bear in mind, however, that this is essentially an old recording, taken in 2005, which means a lot in the case of such young artists. Even the accompanying duo recordings, in which Liebeck teams up with pianist Katya Apekisheva, go back almost three years, but the symbiosis here is markedly fresher and more equally voiced.

The one overall attraction, though, lies in its pleasing variety of this orchestral-versus-chamber music package.





HAVING long loved the idea of British Sea Power (an indie guitar band consisting of eccentric, intellectual birdwatchers whose sleeve artwork is fantastic) more than the reality (on record, a slightly dull indie guitar band), it's a delight to hear a BSP album that lives up to the hype. As it happens, it's a new, instrumental, post-rock soundtrack to the 1934 film Man of Aran, about life in an Irish fishing community. Minimal, unhurried, brooding, haunting, often ravishingly beautiful, it is the best Mogwai album Mogwai haven't made.