Personnel: Richard Bona (vocals, keyboards, vocodor, guitar, bass, percussion); Salif Keita (vocals); Aaron Heicke (soprano saxophone,
alto saxophone); Kenny Garrett (soprano saxophone); Todd Horton (trumpet, flugelhorn); A.T.N., George Whitty (piano, keyboards); George Colligan (piano); Romero Lubambo (acoustic & electric guitars); Chris Young (electric guitar); Vinnie Colaiuta, Nathaniel Townsley (drums); Gilmar Gomes (percussion).
Principally recorded at Sear Sound, New York, New York and Moffou Studios, Bamako, Mali.
Yet another of Harry Belafonte's prot‚g‚s who later made a big name for himself, Cameroon's Richard Bona takes time out from his ace session bass life to make another remarkably versatile, impeccably polished solo album, Munia: The Tale, his first on Verve. While Bona allows rock, jazz, funk, and Brazilian influences through the window, the melodies and rhythmic patterns are still strongly rooted in West Africa, always permeating the atmosphere. On some of the tracks, Bona needs no help at all to make an impression, layering on his vocals over his bass, guitars, keyboards, and percussion in an exquisitely controlled one-man show. He often does so with the subtle shading and dabs of color of a pianter, like the gentle Moog lines that seep into the background of "Dina Lam." Indeed, "Munia" opens with a cleverly titled a cappella incantation "Bonatology" -- featuring no other voices than those of Bona. And when he gets one of those revolving Afrobeat grooves going -- with irresistible results on "Couscous" -- you wish the track would never end. Yet Bona also doesn't mind playing a supporting role, laying back on bass as Miles Davis alumnus Kenny Garrett offers up some soulful soprano sax on the now-contemplative, now-complex Miles tribute "Painting a Wish." Salif Keita adds his impassioned, keening vocals to "Kalabancoro," and Romero Lubambo's acoustic guitar gives "Bona Petit" (another self-referential title) a lot of its Brazilian flavor. Bona the virtuoso doesn't try to dazzle you with his technique; instead, he seduces you with his music's glossy finish and peacefully insistent rhythms. ~ Richard S. Ginell