Lawson Rollins — Espirito

Lawson Rollins — Espirito

Feb. 10, 2010

When I reviewed the debut release, Infinita, by world/jazz guitarist Lawson Rollins in 2008, I strongly suspected that we would hear more of the diverse cultural mix from the exotic melodies that he coaxed from the strings of his guitar. I’d like to take a moment here to gloat about my being quite correct. Here, with Espirito, the guitarist, along with some mighty help again from Shahin Shahida, the well-respected world/jazz guitarist and one-half of the world/jazz duo, Shahin & Sepehr, sets the World stage afire again with hot licks and sexy Latin/world melodies tailor-made for the romantic and the culturally curious, as well.

Many of the notable contributors here also offered their respective skills to Infinita, including renowned vocalist Flora Purim, who now offers her charm to “Moonlight Samba,” “Return to Rio,” and the title track (all three tracks favor the Brazilian/Latin influence, and it all fits and works so well here). There’s also keyboardist/pianist/producer Dominic Carmardella, who’s worked with the iconic guitarist Ottmar Liebert and the acid jazz group 3rd Force. These contributors and others make their presence very much felt throughout this fine production.

Rollins explains, “I love the hybrid quality of World Music and how it allows for cross-cultural communication and exchange. The Spanish guitar is a true manifestation of the commingling of cultures with its ties to the Arabic oud, the Persian tar, even the Indian sitar; so, drawing on those connections seems natural to me.” Add to that the distinctive Latin flavor, and, of course, the specific Brazilian influence on a few of these tracks, and you do have a consummate diverse production of great quality.

There are soothing, laid-back, and well-structured tracks here (including the melancholy and gorgeous “Blue Mountain Bolero”). strolling along side-by-side with more stirring pieces like the opener (just one of my many favs).

The previously mentioned Shahin, another master of World melodies, is featured throughout this CD and helps to carry such sexily lazy tunes like “Havana Heat,” “Cape Town Sky,” and many others, including two of the bonus tracks Rollins dubs as The Caravan Trilogy. There are Latin, Persian, and so many other influences offered just in these last three tracks, which are as equally rich in melody and structure as the preceding ten tracks. Of particular note is the appearance of the tambura-of Indian origin—which is used very smartly on the appealing “Shadowland.” This track begins with a rather introspective, mellow air then builds to a more mid-tempo rhythmic piece (all the while still remaining somewhat reflective), then settles back again.

Lawson Rollins does know his way around the Spanish guitar and shows how to clearly read and absorb the cultures of the world in doing so. Espirito is another solid effort. — Ronald Jackson

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