CD reviews: Tres Marias, Nikki Yanofsky, Mandela OST

By Jackie Dosmanos

Posted at May 25 2014 03:26 PM | Updated as of May 26 2014 06:49 PM

Tres Marias
"Tres Marias"

If sexy vocals and hot grooves are your idea of good music from a girl group, then the recent EP from Tres Marias is probably not for you. Color It Red’s vocalist/lounge jazz chanteuse Cooky Chua, world music diva Bayang Barrios and Pinoy folk icon Lolita Carbon are the Tres Marias, a name bestowed on them when they started performing in political rallies during the PGMA era.

In those performances, there was more grrrl! power bite to the trio than your average girl-fronted band.

Their debut EP collects previously released songs plus covers of Pinoy pop songs and by all reckoning the grrrl thing remains the same. “Wika”, a funny mix of Florante’s martial law anthem “Ako’y Isang Pinoy” and APO’s ”American Junk”, illustrates the core of Tres Marias’ smart blend. Amid music that owes as much to Yoyoy Villame as to Tropical Depression, Lolit and company sings that English language is a bitter pill that should be taken in moderation. The song ends happily in a “Merry Christmas” shout-out.

A cover version of “Sana” features stellar vocal turns by each performer and it’s a clever choice. The trio retains the relatively serene atmosphere of the song but the dynamics bubble up in lyrics of hope for a future without want, fear and strife. On the other hand, in Dina Bonnevie’s “Bakit Ba Ganyan” and in the scorching Latin-flavored “Kung Ayaw Mo Na Sa Akin”, they merrily poke at love and its discontents.

The EP’s a winner and a full album should be out soon to uncover the prowess of this spunky power trio.

Nikki Yanofsky
"Little Secret"

Canadian Nikki Yanofsky is a music prodigy who caught the jazz bug at age 11. Her powerful delivery in a big band setting eventually slotted her as an Ella Fitzgerald diamond in the rough.

A sizzling performance at the 2005 Montreal Jazz Festival led to three albums included a live one that spotlighted her impeccable scatting and sprightly swing as well as a budding pop sense.

Helmed by legendary producer Quincy Jones, who happens to be her current mentor, Yanofsky’s latest “Little Secret” could be her “Off the Wall” by the late Michael Jackson, another Jones prodigy.

In “Off the Wall,” Jacko shook off his teenybopper image to set the stage for the highly successful albums of his later career. In “Little Secret,” Yanofsky recasts her immaculate jazz reputation and takes on the frenetic rhythms, impeccable hooks and less-than-perfect orchestration of today’s soul and R&B.

“Jeepers Creepers” and “Knock Knock” sound like Christina Aguilera fronting a premier acid-jazz band from the ‘50s. “Waiting on the Sun” and “Bang” belong to the hall of fame of ‘60s classic pop songwriting.

In the album opener, “Something New”, the music adapts a few things from Quincy Jones’ “Soul Bossa Nova” and Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” while Yanofsky explores the breadth of her voice.

The little secret is now out and it loudly announces bigger things for the sweet Miss from Montreal.

Various artists
"Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom OST"

This is a parallel musical document to the movie of the same title. Those who have yet to see the movie but have an idea of Mandela’s personal struggle to end apartheid by peaceful means in South Africa can take comfort in the fact that the track sequence follows the timeline of his revolutionary journey.

The first half of the album is suffused with lazy jazz and acapella numbers mirroring Mandela’s initial rebellion then eventual reflection on his fate in the early years of his incarceration. Art Blakey’s “Amuck”, with its machine gun drum fills and rattling bass, lends a fitting transition to the political ferment that ensued from the late ‘70s onwards.

The other half features rebel music from Bob Marley, ‘60s activist icon Gil Scott-Heron and post-punkers Special AKA echoing the growing sentiment against apartheid from the international music community and the nations of the world. “Ordinary Love” ends the soundtrack on one more emotive plea from Bono Vox for love, peace and understanding.

Like the film, its soundtrack is a homage to a world leader who passed away in 2013, with the added bonus that it also pays tribute to the wealth of music from Africa to the rest of the world.