Album review: "Jamm"
By Mark Jenkins
Friday, Apr. 6, 2012
Like many West African singers, Cheikh Lo performs in various languages. These include Wolof, which provides the name of his latest album, "Jamm." The word means "peace," an ideal title - and not just because the Senegalese performer's lyrics appeal for a gentler world. Musically, "Jamm" is a serene affair, built on murmuring guitar, chattering percussion and Lo's honeyed voice.
Recorded at bassist Thierno Sarr's house in Dakar, the album's basic tracks were intended as demos. Lo and Nick Gold, who co-produced the album, then recorded the songs with a full band. But they ultimately decided to scrap the later takes and use the originals. "Jamm" includes some sonic addenda - notably by saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis and drummer Tony Allen, both longtime Lo collaborators - but such lovely ballads as "Warico" retain a homespun vibe.
Lo is a member of the Baye Fall, a Sufi sect whose mystic outlook guides such songs as "Dieuf Dieul." Other tunes were shaped by the singer's affection for the sounds of his 1960s youth. In those days, Cuban rumba was a major influence on African pop, so "Jamm" often suggests "Buena Vista Social Club." This may be the least kinetic of Lo's four albums, but its easy rhythms underpin music of warmth and grace.