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Johannes Linstead — Azul

Sept. 21, 2017

Nuevo flamenco/World guitarist Johannes Linstead is again inviting us on another of his exotic and captivating journeys across the musical landscape he has come to conquer so well, this time with a beauty called simply Azul (“blue” in Spanish). With its flavorful and colorful flair, red should have been added to the color scheme for this one as the guitarist lights it up from an island perspective or as he offers up a new feel (for example, the style most will recall on Carlos Santana’s Supernatural album, in particular on track two’s “Cha Cha Chu,” which so reminds me of that super-hot “Smooth” from the Mexican icon’s CD. Linstead ignites that flame with the experience of one totally familiar with the value of hot guitar work to set a certain tone. The blending of hot electric oil with cool acoustic salve throughout the album is wildly refreshing.

We get a taste of a slick, pop-like side of Linstead on track 3’s “Be My Girl” and a smooth reggae jam on track 8’s “Moon Child,” both an interesting departure from his norm. By the way, “Be My Girl” even features lead vocals by the guitarist  (vocals are also provided on other tracks by Geoff Hlibka, Jenni MacNeil, and Osvaldo Rodriguez on other tracks). Hey, and we even have some sizzling trumpet here, too! Oh, yes, this one comes well packaged.

The beauty of Linstead’s trademark relaxed, exotic, sunset-filled guitar is never far away on this album that offers some new and satisfying twists, however. Witness “Lazy Sunday” and “Surrender to Me” for great examples.

The guitarist has such a pure and romantic relationship with the warmth and soft power of this aspect of the Latin sound and mood, and its presence and clarity are so evident in every piece.

I’ve admired the irresistible call of Linstead’s style for many years, and he never disappoints with any of his new material. Azul is yet another example of that consistency.

Mostly recorded in Toronto and Ontario, Canada, the Dominican Republic, and Australia, the album’s worldliness and international appeal is undeniable. In fact, he’s up for the Toronto Independent Music Awards, winners to be announced on October 13. I’ll bet dollars to donuts that he – no stranger to awards — snags one for this excellent album.

Loaded with tropical peace, all-bracing serenity, exoticism to the moon and back, and the warmth that fans of his music have come to know so well, Azul should be on the lips of all real music lovers for a long time to come. Carisma con exotismo. – Ronald Jackson