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Jazz 02/07/2015

Beyond Borders By Randy Armstrong & Volker Nahrmann

Beyond Borders By Randy Armstrong & Volker Nahrmann

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New York, NY (Top40 Charts) Sail off on a global voyage with the music of Randy Armstrong and Volker Nahrmann, who
have been creating some of the best world-fusion sounds for the past four decades in Do'a World Music Ensemble, in Unu Mondo and their new ensemble, Beyond Borders with special guests from around the globe. Their music is truly Beyond Borders, the title of their latest collaboration which cements their position as cultural ambassadors and proponents of a harmonious planet.

Beyond Borders draws from diverse influences whether it is the Latin sounds heard in the streets of Havana and Rio de Janeiro, the evocative musical traditions of India and the Middle East, the romantic cafe and cinema music of France and Italy, the tribal traditions of the Native American pow wow, or the worldbeat rhythms of West Africa and the Caribbean, all blended with contemporary jazz, western classical, and folk music influences. Several songs are tributes: to jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie, sitarist Pandit Ravi Shankar, and Beatle George Harrison. The CD comes with a 16-page booklet full of photos and narrative.

Armstrong and Nahrmann composed all of the music on the recording and play on every tune. While Armstrong is primarily a guitarist (acoustic and electric) and Nahrmann a bassist (acoustic and electric), they also play many other instruments including an array of strings, keyboards and percussion as well as a variety of ethnic musical instruments that they utilize in the studio and on-stage during concerts. They are joined on Beyond Borders by many former members of Do'a and Unu Mondo as well as numerous world-class musicians from many countries. The music includes world, jazz, Latin jazz, new age and neo-classical.

"One of the great opportunities for a musician living in this day and age is the cross-cultural exchange of ideas in music and lifestyles," says Armstrong. "Through extensive travel, playing with incredible musicians from around the world, and collecting over 300 instruments from the far corners of the planet, we are inspired to explore this vast cultural diversity in our music. It is our hope that it becomes a boundary-breaking experience for listeners everywhere and contributes to a more harmonious and peaceful planet."

Randy Armstrong has performed on more than 40 albums and film scores. In addition to co-founding Do'a (five albums) and Unu Mondo (Hand in Hand), he has released a solo album (No Regrets) and a pair of children's storytelling and music albums (Armstrong & Aichele: World Tales - Volume One and Volume Two). He scored the music for a four-part PBS TV series, Dinner On The Diner (which explored four famous train rides around the world), and his resulting double-CD received excellent reviews. He has been commissioned to compose original scores of Shakespeare's Hamlet, Macbeth and the epic poem of India, The Mahabharata.

Volker Nahrmann is a graduate of the prestigious Berklee College of Music with additional studies in jazz and classical performance at Graz, Austria, and Frankfurt, Germany. A skilled composer, arranger and keyboardist in addition to his bass-playing, Nahrmann joined the Do'a World Music Ensemble and played on their fifth album, World Dance (which went to #7 on Billboard's World Music Chart), and began touring with them. He and Armstrong then founded the successful world-fusion recording-and-touring group Unu Mondo. Nahrmann also is the principal bassist for the SymphonyNH and runs the highly-successful Nahrmann Bass Shop in Billerica, Massachusetts (nahrmannbass [dot] com).

Beyond Borders begins with four Latin-influenced tunes. The first, "Ciao Bella," is a Brazilian-flavored song featuring the scat vocals of Olga Roman (Spain), percussion by Marcus Santos (Brazil) and drumming by Henrique De Almeida (Brazil). "Fear Not Fear" is a contemporary Latin jazz tune with catchy propelling rhythms by Andres Espinoza (Chile) on congas and bongos, and Joe Duque (Venezuela) on drums, plus Ken Gable (who played with Unu Mondo) on sax. Duque has performed extensively in concert with Armstrong & Nahrmann, is a graduate of Berklee College of Music, and with the GED Trio. Gable also graduated from Berklee and has played with Wynton Marsalis, David Sanchez and the New York Latin Jazz Orchestra. The next tunes celebrate legendary trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, one of the first top American jazz artists to record Brazilian-Latin Jazz and introduce it to worldwide audiences. The short "Unidad Anthem" (and the album's closing "Unidad Epilogue") feature acoustic guitar, bass and trumpet. Cuban trumpeter Yaure Muniz also performs on "Unidad - Tribute to Dizzy Gillespie," composed by Armstrong in 1978 but never recorded until now. "I remember when Do'a opened for Dizzy at a jazz club in 1976," Armstrong says. "We were just getting started, but Dizzy was very positive and supportive and generous with his encouragement and advice. He suggested adding percussion to our sound and that spurred us to study and incorporate more world rhythms." This tribute to Gillespie's love of Latin music also features Roman, Duque, Charlie Jennison on sax, and Walt Bostian on trombones.

The album journey then moves to the Middle East for "Wherever You Are" that combines an Indian rhythm called "Rupak" with a Middle-eastern rhythm known as "Dawr Hindi." According to Armstrong, "The song lyrics express the love between a child and a parent, or it can be interpreted as the longing between two lovers, or between the seeker and the Divine." The song features Armstrong singing a duet with Hallie Fuller. Also performing are Gable, Duque and Shamou (Iran) on darbuka, a Mid-eastern goblet hand drum. The next piece is "Shanti Om - Dedicated to Ravi Shankar and George Harrison" (both instrumental in introducing the music of India to Western audiences) and it features Armstrong on sitar, tabla and tanpura/tamboura among other instruments along with Nahrmann on bass, dilruba (a bowed stringed instrument from India) and keyboards. Also joining in are drummer and tabla player Marty Quinn, Carnatic violinist Raghav Bhat and vocalist Vidyha Bhat.

"White Cloud Black Thunder" fuses Native American flute playing, drumming and chanting with contemporary jazz. Armstrong (who plays the Lakota courting wood flute) and Nahrmann join with the Black Thunder Singers (winners of a Native American Music Award) along with Gable and De Almeida. "This song celebrates the power of the natural world and of the Native American culture," explains Nahrmann. In the late Seventies Do'a played several concerts and festivals with the Paul Winter Consort and were impressed by how that group used their music to promote environmentalism. At one of the shows Armstrong and Nahrmann performed an early version of their tune "There's Always Hope" and invited the Consort's Grammy Award-winning cellist Eugene Friesen to perform the piece with them. Remembering the magic of that moment decades ago, Armstrong and Nahrmann invited Friesen to re-join them when they recorded this track. Also appearing are saxophonist Charlie Jennison, former Unu Mondo drummer Bertram Lehmann from Germany, and the vocalists from the groups Voices From the Heart and ConTutti (Hallie Fuller, Julie Haggerty Southworth and Cynthia Chatis).

The scene shifts to the Northern Mediterranean and the cafe music of France and the cinema music of Italy for the composition "Love Letters - The Story of Abelard and Heloise" (inspired by their tragic love story in medieval France). Then "Fun in the Sun" celebrates Afro-Cuban music and West African rhythms by utilizing Theo Martey (Ghana) on vocals and djembe, along with members of his Akwaaba Ensemble -- Evelyn Martey on vocals and Saeed Abbas on the dondo talking drum. They are joined by Gable, De Almedia and vocalists Fuller, Southworth and Chatis. Lyrics are in both English and the Ga language.

According to Armstrong, "Beyond Borders is dedicated to the belief that music has the power to uplift the human spirit and be a catalyst for change in the world."

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