I dunno why they use the word "jazz" in their group name, but the Guinean ensemble Bembeya Jazz (National) is not a "jazz" band - but with hot modern/urban African dance sounds as dandy as this, they could call themselves Ernie & Mike’s Greenhorn Polka Commandos and it’d be alright w/ me. They play a style of West African dance-pop that is a synthesis of traditional West African folk strains, American R&B (i.e., James Brown), Cuban & Caribbean rhythms, a pinch of blues and (of course) a dash of jazz, a unique (to our Western ears) sound that buzzes, bubbles and percolates with a groove that is subtle as it is irresistible. The horns are a sharp, tangy and hearty as freshly-made blue cheese dressing - that accompanies the chicken wings: the multiple guitars interlock and weave about each other, except for that heavenly, thick-cut solo steel guitar, which sizzles with a rich, hearty sound that takes in snatches of Hawaii, the Gulf Coast blues stylists and Texas honky-tonkers. The bass is warm and round and the vocals have a sandy, kindly rough-hewn soulfulness to them. The production is quite nearly perfect: vibrant, sunny, spacious - you can almost feel the rollicking sax lines moving the molecules of air around the room. (And I don’t even have a great sound system.) Bembeya is their first album in something like 15 years - for hardcore as well as casual fans of Afro-pop, this is cause for rejoicing.