Tea, the production team of guitarist Frank Balloffet and drummer - keyboard player Phil Bunch, has just released its second album ‘Dreams’. A sumptuously intoxicating collection of original French and African songs, it is entirely different from anything you will hear this year and features a high calibre line-up of supporting musicians. The project, which comes in the wake of the critically acclaimed CD ‘Voyages du Jour’, is the latest phase of a love affair that Balloffet and Bunch have had with the LA soul - afrobeat scene since the early nineties and the band Bateke Beat. The duo later emerged with Orchestra Shegemo and recently have been producing and collaborating with a range of artists from this overlooked sub-genre which, in the context of compelling rhythms, never fails to deliver.
Take for example the hypnotic mid tempo ‘Envie’ that is blessed with the vocals of Chana and a great groove laid down by Balloffet and Bunch. The American born multi lingual Chana has performed with the Tambu International Assembly and is again in fine form with the mellow ‘Dis Moi’. It’s a tune that affords the opportunity for slide guitarist Chris Darrow to shine and when the vocal spotlight switches to Steve Ngondo the result is the distinctly tribal but totally pleasing ‘Bilobela’. Featuring Hammond B3 from the legendary Brian Auger it has a vibe to die for and Ngondo is just as good for the intense but totally accessible ‘Vibration’. Auger stays with the B3 for the foot tapping ‘Ibiza’ while in complete contrast is the chill influenced ‘Haunty’ for which Ngondo provides the contemplative vocal and Bobby English comes up big on tenor sax.
Elsewhere, other tracks that catch the attention include the compelling cadence of ‘Lisapo’ where Tea really ratchet up the tempo and ‘Verite’ which shimmers with an irresistible rhythm. However, in an album chock full of delicious surprises, a real Smooth Jazz Therapy favourite is the captivating ‘Desirable’. Chana, with her understated vocals, is again outstanding, Auger is immense on Fender Rhodes and Randall Willis makes a noteworthy contribution on alto sax.
Different enough to garner significant attention ‘Dreams’ is a wonderful addition to this year’s crop of new releases. For more on Tea go to www.teaproductions.com