Words by Jane Cornwall
Parisian electro jazzer goes to Mali
The French musician, composer and producer Ludovic Navarre (aka St Germain) burst onto the scene 20 years ago with Boulevard, an album that refreshed electronic music by combining it with jazz and blues. Five years later, a follow-up album, Tourist, sold in the millions. Laden with awards in both jazz and electronic music genres but uncomfortable with the pressures of success, Navarre then promptly disappeared. His return, in a climate where electro crossovers are now run-of-the-mill, might have been a damp squib. Instead he’s made the album of his career.
The album’s first single, ‘Real Blues’, tantalised longtime fans by throwing a vocal sample from ‘You Caused My Heart to Weep’ by American country blues singer Lightnin’ Hopkins into the jazzy electro mix. Not that this latest recording is all Moby-like pilfering. Navarre has turned to real musicianship and to Mali, deftly mixing club beats with jazz and traditional African music. The tumbling notes of kora player Mamadou Cherif Soumano and the sharp ngoni (lute) riffs of Guimba Kouyaté vie with balafon (xylophone), keyboards and Brazilian percussion; the voices of respected Malian singers Zoumana Téréta and Nahawa Doumbia soar over subtle programmed beats. Expect more awards, and anticipate a lifting of the spirits.