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Baba Marimba: Tango de los Muertos (Self-Released) 

This group could be teaching graduate-level courses in African, jazz and world music. That's how varied and deep the group's collective musical experience is.

Nine of these 12 compositions stand strong as originals, while most of them are also collaborative efforts, a key ingredient in the unique personality each tune embodies.

Those lucky enough to have seen this group in action at their high-energy dance parties may be caught off-guard by the variety and scope of the performances here, several of which are more soulful and jazz-oriented than the group's name might imply. In fact, while marimbas of all sorts are omnipresent, this is a horn-driven affair, with Heidi Wilson on alto sax and Mike Ankomeus on trumpet lighting up one track after the next. Their work clearly defines most of these songs.

Following their celebratory opening of "Mambo Malastranska," Baba Marimba follow with "Ima," a jazz-influenced work that also distinguishes itself with the introduction of Mark Holdaway's electric guitar. Holdaway, a virtuoso on almost any instrument he picks up, adds an entirely different element to the mix with his work on electric six-string. "Night of the Pharaohs" follows, introducing Middle Eastern flavors (think vintage James Bond soundtracks), while the title track, as its name implies, adds a distinctive Latin flair.

Stu Mortimer and Robert "Swami" Peizer are also prominent on marimbas and percussion throughout, while Michael Holloway and Ali Sherbiny add solid support on drums.

Jim Lipson

More by Jim Lipson

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