Mojo (Publisher) (p.98) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Joseph has spent his adult life analyzing the Afro-Caribbean diaspora through his poetry, novels, lectures and music, and his sixth album continues his exploration."
Audio Mixer: Jordan Kouby.
Editor: Jordan Kouby.
Photographer: Anthony Joseph.
Caribbean Roots is poet and urban griot Anthony Joseph's second solo date and his sixth overall. It began as an informal collaboration with percussionist Roger Raspail (who played on 2014's Time, and quickly encompassed a wide variety of styles, articulating rhythms, sounds, and vibes that resonate in Caribbean music from Port of Spain and Kingston to Les Abymes and Port-au-Prince to Havana, while also reaching through West Africa. Some of the other players here include saxophonist Jason Yarde, tenorman Shabakah Hutchings, bassists Andrew John and Mike Clinton, trumpeter Yvon Guillard, trombonist Pierre Chabrèlle, guitarist Patrick Marie-Magdeleine, keyboardist Florian Pellisier, and pan steel drum master Andy Narell.
This mix contains many sounds Joseph has investigated before -- jazz, calypso, reggae, and soul -- but he adds strident Afrobeat, jazz-funk, soca, dub, salsa, and progressive jazz. "The Kora" is built on a massive horn-and-bass vamp with steel drums, congas, and other percussion instruments improvising as Joseph recites his lyric with force. There is a harmonic nod to Charles Mingus' "Haitian Fight Song" as well. "Jimmy Upon That Bridge" is furious Afrobeat that extends from the influence of Miles Davis' Agharta-era à la voodoo funk. It roils with charging horns, insistent wah-wah guitars, a fleet bass riff, and distorted electric piano while Joseph roars over the top, evoking the authority of Fela, James Brown, and Gil Scott-Heron. First single "Neckbone" is a dubwise calypso featuring Trinidadian icon David Rudder, who toasts his poetry in duet with Joseph as Narell works mysterious, hypnotic magic on the steel drums. "Mano a Mano" unveils the Trinidadian roots in Ornette Coleman's approach to lyric harmony. It's an action poem, as Joseph is backed only by Yarde's alto and Raspail's fiery hand drums. One of the hippest things here is "Brother Davis (Yanvalou)" that weaves Jamaican calypso, post-1970 Marvin Gaye-styled soul, and contemporary jazz-funk to accompany Joseph's half-spoken, half-sung allegorical narrative. "Our History" has a slithering melodica and sweet melody referencing everything from Stevie Wonder to Mandrill and Irakere amid lithe, soulful Afro-Cuban jazz-funk. "Slinger" is a cooking soca-cum-Afrobeat-cum-salsa tribute to Mighty Sparrow. Its interlocking layers of percussion, horns, keys, and wah-wah guitar are driven by a frenetic bassline while Joseph chants them on in the refrain. The title track weds bluesy outre jazz to dubwise bass and drums, with steel drums and hand percussion accenting an already massive groove quotient.
Throughout Caribbean Roots textures shift as often as rhythms, dynamics, and harmonies do. This fluidity provides Joseph ample space to shade, infer, and highlight the metalinguistic levels at work in his poetry. He simultaneously inhabits the roles of prophet and cultural historian, reasoning, arguing, and issuing affirmations and warnings. This band's canny playing evokes established musical traditions and carves new ones from their bones to underscore Joseph's lyric evocations of past, present, and future in a multivalent, seamless unfolding. In sum, all of Joseph's previous recordings have culminated in this mighty, glorious moment. ~ Thom Jurek