FM Tribe vol. 1 is a perfect representation of Cameroonian bassist Francis Mbappe’s significant discography. The arrangements and choices of musicians brighten this album, testifying Mbappe’s musical wisdom. The band shows a true stylistic unit --despite their different origins -- and in every track of this release, one recognizes instantaneously the brilliance of this musician and great producer which proves his real identity.
The introductory parts of "Ndola Bwindea" and "Sango Mbappe" are totally different but worthy concentrated styles so particular to what Francis Mbappe has developed: ultra-sophisticated African grooves nourished with jazz and soul, full of beats decorated with multiple ornaments and simple topics without being simplistic. Mbappe’s harmonies are built on subtle tensions equipped with erudite textures, rhythmic and delicately funky syncopation, and of course a virtuoso and omnipresent bass playing. "Ndola Bwindea" sings to the roots of love in everyone of us while "Sango Mbappe" is a love call to Mbappe’s father.
Smooth shifts are indeed the assigned offerings here; a fresh Mbappe has charted all at once a "cipher of ditties" from very divergent heritages, connoting and articulating them easily.
"International Man" opens with a Latin jazz beat where saxophonist Aaron Heick’s incendiary saxophone testifies its rigorous sentence, generating an ample swing, pushing the tension with his paroxysm. The risk of this composition is in the original instrumentation and the mastery of possible variations.
"We Need Somebody" opens with an Mbappe Sting-like voice, the lyrics recalling the basic need of every single human being, but overall the swing that’s carried by the band is a lesson of permanent movement, a subtle rigour, plentiful and alive.
Another great role is held by trumpeter Todd Horton on "Africa", who alternates harmonic accelerations with more felt sonorities, always with the concern of making the horn sing its breath. "Africa" celebrates beauty and as this groove architect Brooklyn-based Francis Mbappe is; he wrote these lyrics while attracting as a starting point his roots, but also his every day life .... and one appreciates at the same time his modesty, his sense of funky-innovation and his respectful step.
"Ndolo" showcases a marvellous Mbappe scat, with wallops of Latin styles, but also hip-hop, blues, and R&B as well. One will slip with pleasure into the youthful waters, lit by the melodic guitar of David Gilmore on "Ngosso" and "Liza". The last one is a beautiful theme that Mbappe has written to express his love for his daughter, Liza.
All along the keyboards and drums are acute parings. With drummer Adam Holzman, on "Ngosso" and "Bessoua", keyboardist Rodney Holmes deploys many colours, zapping and full of swing. "Sawa" penetrates the anthems of soul. The funk rebuilds with a key R &B sound. With a soft -- and strong!-- manner, the band offers emotions beyond purists a priori and that’s the eternal modernity of African music.
"Mulema" is funky-groovy, and, even if the message that it conveys is gloomy -- a love never satisfied -- it sounds as if the music and the rhythm are cheering up our hearts and washing out our pains. Mbappe’s beautiful print of music abides in the fact that every soul can feel (somehow) identified in the many sound expressions and joys Mbappe’s creation imparts.
Francis Mbappe is able to play totally without ever separating his profoundness. Just listen to his last release FM TRIBE vol. 1: it offers a musical landscape of singularity as maidenly .... as its Mbappe’s elegance of expression.