Jean-Pierre Simons hails from Cameroon, and the native rhythms there are quite dissimilar to Western tradition, as is much of the continent's musical tradition, yet exceedingly infectious. Paul Simon found that out and incorporated African staples and colorations into a segment of his work, finding a wide audience for the fusion. Not long after, Peter Gabriel, departing the prog realms, dove into heady waters and began heavily working with upper and lower African (and surrounding areas) sonorities, gathering to himself much more legitimate world essences than the New Age movement had been able to provide, an effort that proved providential.
Simons turns this all around and starts from Africa, working outwards, incorporating the jazz of that continent and this along with pop, latin styles, and rock. The base, though, is always African in its rhythmic fundament. A number of the songs are sung in French, and the appearances of Ron Leewarde and James Robinson, despite the somewhat innocuous accreditation of 'lead guitar' and 'classical guitar', play very well, the latter especially, in fusions that will have Al DiMeola scampering around delightedly, keeping up with runs that are shockingly adept.
Harmony is the keynote to Sentimentally and much of this CD comes off gratifyingly akin to a Putumayo label release, reggae peeking in here, soul there, everything engineered to please ear, spirit, and emotion. Polyrhythms abound and Simons' voice is not far removed from Al Jarreau's (minus all the wonderful scat Al uses), Kenny Loggins', or Stevie Wonder's, nor are the songs unaligned with the same positivity and uplifting regards. And, just like Kenny, Stevie, and Al, this is material to uplevel the moribundity of the charts. One can only hope, then, that this guy achieves rapid success because I'd like to have a few more reasons to turn on music radio.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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