Narada World
artist website, label website
By far the most ambitious undertaking yet from this popular Canadian nuevo flamenco guitarist, Nomad veers into inspired Moorish Arab-Andalus territory and makes heavy use of Egyptian strings and erstwhile tsifeteli percussion ace, Hossam Ramzy. Mixing cool Pop vocals by Sam Llanas and Kurt Neumann with rumba flamenca as on "Early On Tuesday" or "Down like Rain" works surprisingly well. But the real vocal sensation is Montsé Cortés whose concluding "Toca Orilla" is an immaculately arranged smoldering Gitano number that should have even the proud Spaniard protectors of the genre tip their hats in admiring recognition.

Apparently the product of two years' worth of extensive traveling, Nomad's charm comes from densely packed soundscapes that blend Middle-Eastern violin, hand percussion, vocal fragments, Flamenco guitar, synth ambiance and sundry elements into a style that's been popularized by artists like Loreena McKennitt, Lisa Gerrard and Azam Ali on the vocal world-fusion front; and The Gipsy Kings, Pascal Gallo, Ketama, Barrio Chino and Adam del Monte (with Omar Faruk Tekbilek) in the nouveau flamenco arena opening its gates towards Africa and Arabia.

It's easy to predict wholesale top-ten success for Nomad's formula - it breaks out of the tired old Ottmar Liebert mold by incorporating strains from a far larger global vernacular, albeit without abandoning the popular appeal of easy listening that's mandatory for air play. Add Narada's production values, clever arrangements that surround Jesse's instantly recognizable lead guitar with rich settings and percolating percussion grooves. If Nomad were traded as an investment on the stock market, it'd be as sure a bet as knowing dinner was served if you ordered out. Where gifted players like Armik limit themselves to endless overdubbing, Jesse's more visionary approach instead invites a smorgasbord of collaborators to go places where no single artist, no matter how clever, can go regardless of multi-tracking just because he denies himself the surprise element of interaction with others. Highly recommended, also for audiophile demo sessions - especially the last track.