Album Review: Tómas Doncker Band w/ Yusef Komunyakaa – “Big Apple Blues”
The Tómas Doncker Band’s newest release Big Apple Blues is an intriguing and experimental release to say the least, as it sees the venerable music industry veteran pairing his brand of what he’s dubbed “Global Soul” with Pulitzer Prize winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa’s lyrics. The two have teamed up for a record that is an “examination of what it means to be black in America today”, a topic that seems as relevant as ever given recent tensions between the African American community and the police forces in places like New York City and Ferguson, Missouri.
Doncker is certainly no stranger to collaborating with big names, as the singer, guitarist and producer has share the stage or studio with massive names like Madonna, Yoko Ono, Bootsy Collins and Ivan Neville, just to name a few. Still, having a Pulitzer level poet penning the lyrics for Big Apple Blues is more than a little impressive, and the pairing makes for a very interesting listen, and one that stands out from your typical blues album. The two are developing quite the working relationship as this is their second effort together, with the first being The Mercy Suite, a collaboration that also featured Meshell Ndegeocello and Corey Glover of Living Colour.
The “Global Soul” that The Tómas Doncker Band is an accurate name for the band’s Caribbean and African-influenced hybrid of American blues, gospel and soul. The sound is a very New York one, in that it reflects NYC’s gumbo of people from every corner of the world. It also makes a fine fit for Komunyakaa’s worldly lyrics that come from a well-traveled and unique life that’s seen its share of heartbreak.
While Big Apple Blues faces some hard truths about American life in 2015, the record still holds onto the hope that things can get better. In that sense the record reflects a lot of the attitudes behind gospel, blues and soul music; no matter how hard the road may get, you persevere. Overall Big Apple Blues is a fascinating peek into the creative processes of two well respected vets collaborating on a unique project, and doing so with some very nice results.