Malavoi, Le Meilleur

Chris Nickson

By Chris Nickson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
An unlikely combination of old string-driven French dances with Latin music.

If Kassav' showcase zouk, Malavoi, with their classically trained musicians, take another angle, mixing up the unlikely combination of old string-driven French dances like the mazurka and beguine, with Latin music. Starting life at the end of the 1960s, they honed their ideas into a very danceable, addictive hybrid. This very complete set (almost 2.5 hours) catalogues their 1980s heyday, and splendid it was. The Cuban influence is strong, both in the rhythms and piano work, while the massed strings swirl orchestrally with some fine playing — listen closely and you can hear how intricately arranged these pieces are. “Bona,” with its driving percussion breakdown, is a standout, and two longer cuts devolve into wonderfully inventive descargas, or jams that give the musicians a chance to step into the spotlight. Exuberant but graceful, it's music for all the senses that stands as proudly today as it did back then.