Over the past few months I've regularly basked in the liquid guitar, sensual singing, and seductive grooves of Urgent Jumping! East African Musiki Wa Dansi Classics (Sterns). The two-disc, 27-track anthology consists of music recorded mostly in Kenya and Tanzania between 1972 and 1982, a golden era when ideas flowed freely from Congo toward the eastern coast. Along the way Congolese soukous mingled with local traditions: in Kenya the result was called zilizopendwa, in Tanzania zilipendwa (both terms translate roughly as "golden oldies"). Programmed by DJ and curator John Armstrong, Urgent Jumping! covers a lot of ground, including bits of Kenyan benga and various strains of Tanzanian funk and R&B.
Robert Christgau recently gave Urgent Jumping! a lukewarm review—he doesn't think it's as good as the brilliant Guitar Paradise of East Africa, an out-of-print 1990 compilation whose selections are much more focused, sticking strictly to Kenya. But it seems silly to compare them, since Armstrong includes a wider range of stuff. It may not be as flawless and fluid as the earlier compilation, but it's got its own charms—and they've been working on me all year. It was tough to choose today's 12 O'Clock Track, because no single song can encapsulate the anthology's buoyant drive, but I went with "Taabu Ya Awendo" by the Golden Kings Band, an irresistible slice of stuttering hi-hat benga with exuberant group singing.
Evan Parker Electroacoustic Septet, Seven (Victo)
Alex Mincek, Torrent (Sound American)
Jason Collett, Song and Dance Man (Arts & Crafts)
Bearthoven, Trios (Cantaloupe)
Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra, Time/Life (Impulse)