While fans of the late bandleader Tabu Ley Rochereau may eye this album – his bandmates reuniting to play his songs without him - with some suspicion, but it proves that one of his talents was picking great musicians.
Just before Rochereau died in 2013, he asked his long-time sax player Modero Mekanisi to keep the band going. The eventual result was Melanie, the band's first release in many years. While the unhurried but compelling grooves nostalgically echo west Africa's older, pre-soukous Congolese rumba dance styles, the uniformly meticulous playing is a treat for long-time fans.
The formula here remains the same: the big band is less interested in crescendos, and more about laying down a bed of swaying rhythms while honeyed lead voices and instrumental leads float above, urged on by melodic blasts of brass. Lead vocals and lead guitars are traded among band members, each providing their own subtle variations.
Lead guitar is handled by Dino Vangu on the first six tunes and by "Huit Kilos" Nseka on the last five. Both provide sparkling melodies that toss in the occasional flashy, fast run among their inventive embellishments to the tune. These long-ish workouts never break a sweat, but lock into the groove and keep the embers glowing for the dancers, or anyone looking to warm up the flow of their day. - Marty Lipp
Find the band online.