Over the course of his three albums, Cape Verdean singer Tcheka (born Manuel Lopes Andrade) has gently reshaped the sounds of his native land. With his nimble acoustic guitar and sweet wisp of a voice, he's created a soulful singer-songwriter style that ripples with the insinuating rhythms of the batuque, a kinetic traditional music that was once performed only by women. His third album, Lonji (Times Square), has just been released in the U.S., and it makes a big leap from its stripped-down predecessor, Nu Monda (2005).
Produced by the Brazilian singer Lenine, Lonji features several backing musicians, but its sound, still focused squarely on delicate fingerpicked guitar, retains the lulling beauty of Tcheka's previous records. The rhythm section, which sometimes rolls in double time and sometimes drops subtle syncopations, creates a nice tension with the melodic foreground activity and gives the songs a taut muscle missing on Nu Monda (which occasionally got a bit soggy with jazzy flourishes). Here and there horns and accordion flesh out the arrangements, and even though some of the horn embellishments are still too misty for my tastes, the album's undeniably lovely and reflects the increasingly broad palette of musical colors Tcheka is absorbing.
On his second visit to Chicago, Tcheka will lead a trio in a free performance on Wednesday night at the Old Town School (reservations are recommended).
Cat Power, Jukebox (Matador)
Takayanagi Masayuki, A Jazzy Profile of Jojo (Jinya)
Jane Weaver, Cherlokalate (B-Music)
Paulinho Da Viola, Foi um Rio Que Passou em Minha Vida (EMI, Brasil)
Eyvind Kang, Live Low to the Earth, in the Iron Age (Abduction)