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World Music CD Reviews North American

Gregory James Band

By Ernest Barteldes
Published December 19, 2006

Come To Me
Rogue

On his latest CD, this San Francisco-based acoustic jazz guitarist brings elements of Middle Eastern and Asian music into his tunes, blending them with Western sounds, including a few glimpses of rap. On “Jewel Silver,” the band keeps a funky beat (assisted by DJ Fly on the turntables and Jason Lewis on the tabla) that serves as the perfect backdrop for poet Craig Eastley to declaim his witty piece “Bring Back Elvis.” On “Irené,” the arrangement is a heady mix of Flamenco and modern Brazilian jazz, while the title track (written by Björk, who seems to be gaining larger recognition in the jazz world of late—saxophonist Greg Osby, for example, recorded her song “All Neon Like” in 2004) receives a more subtle treatment. Its arrangement is enhanced by a full string ensemble, which gives vocalist Destani Wolf ample opportunity to explore both the complexity and sheer beauty of the tune. Also notable are “Duet # 1” and “Duet # 2,” original compositions by James and Rita Thies, whose delicate sounds on the shakuhachi flute are beautifully accompanied by the leader’s guitar.