Papa Noel, Bana Congo

Chris Nickson

By Chris Nickson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Bana Congo

Papa Noel
A veteran guitarist goes back to his roots.

Bana Congo takes veteran guitarist Papa Noel back to his roots — all the way to the Cuban records his mother played when he was a boy. This album, a duet with Cuban tres player Papi Oviedo, joins the dots between the two sides of the Atlantic. The melodies are decidedly Latin, but the rhythms underneath spring directly from Africa. It's a loving combination of two cultures with so much in common, and the leaders complement each other perfectly — just listen to the way the solos work on “Kin Havane” as a perfect example. “Juliana” moves effortless from a gentle ballad into a double-time ending, while there's a sassy swing to “Oye; Sabroso Son” that belies the ages of the musicians. Noel's guitar work is impeccable, toying with melodies, fencing with Oviedo, and throwing in short, stunning runs.