JazzTimes - pp.70-71
"For all his deep-dish musicality and capacity for virtuosity on tap, in his role as a bandleader, Bona likes to keep the party rolling and the material on the simple, celebratory side."
Personnel: Richard Bona (vocals, bass instrument); John Caban (guitar); Taylor Haskins (trumpet); Etienne Stadwijk (keyboards); Ernesto Simpson (drum); Samuel Torres (percussion).
Considered by many in the jazz world as the natural heir to the throne of the late great Jaco Pastorius, Cameroon-born bassist and vocalist Richard Bona is so well-known for his incredible work as a studio sideman (Joe Zawinal, Regina Carter, Bob James, etc) and two-year stint as musical director for Harry Belafonte that it's easy to overlook his prodigious solo output since the late '90s. Rather than release a safe greatest hits type collection, Decca had the capital idea to follow his Grammy nominated disc Tiki with a high energy, hour-plus live album that captures a batch of his most compelling, rhythmically overjoyed tracks in the habitat where they best come to life. The unique twist is that while Bona loves being on-stage, he's not a fan of making live recordings. So his deal was telling his board guy not to inform him of which performance he was recording to use for the album. The result, tracked at the club A38 in Budapest, is a blast that shares with the world all the energized enthusiasm generated night after night by Bona and his band (keyboardist Etienne Stadwijk, trumpeter Taylor Haskins, guitarist John Caban, percussionist Samuel Torres and drummer Ernesto Simpson). Bona's hip multi-cultural vibe comes to life from the get-go on a 13-minute plus run through a crafty medley of his buoyant, reggae-rolling tune "Engingilaye" (sung in an African language) and the infectious son montuno groove of the salsafied, horn-spiked sizzler "Te Dikalo." Other highlights include the bright, easy rolling samba flavored hum-along "O Sen Sen Sen," the fascinating vocal texturing excursion "Samaouma" (featuring an African "choir" created by digital looping technology), and a slap bass/trumpet/percussion jam sung in his native Douala that jumps out like an ethnic version of Marcus Miller. Bona's trademark exuberant closer, the piece segues magically into the familiar riffing of Stevie Wonder's "I Wish," complete with some call and response with the audience. Live albums were more a luxury than a given in the 2000s, but it's almost a necessity when dealing with an artist as diverse and kinetic as Bona. Kudos to Decca for having the courage to go this route. ~ Jonathan Widran