This is an accessible album from a virtuoso harmonica player.
Lee Oskar – She Said Mahalo – Dreams We Share Music [9/23/2023], 43:19 ****:
Danish born harmonica virtuoso Lee Oskar became renowned as a founding member of the r & b band, War. His solos and accompaniment became a quintessential part of this group for over 20 years. Songs like “Slippin’ Into Darkness”, “The Cisco Kid”, “Low Rider” and “Why Can’t We Be Friends” had a very broad appeal. Noted for his musical vision and instrumental dexterity, his approach to music and culture was unique. In 1983, he formed a company to manufacture signature harmonicas including some with altered tunings, providing a platform for a wide variety of musical styles and genres. He has enjoyed success as a solo artist and band leader, releasing several albums.
Oskar’s current release, She Said Mahalo is comprised of ten original compositions, arranged and produced by this musician (including the graphics). He is joined by a group of players from the Northwest with reeds, horns and percussion. The opening track, “Caribbean Love Song” is as advertised, a rhythmic flowing number with a festive vibe. Oskar’s playing is rich in tone and phrasing. In what feels like an African-infused jam, Children Of The World” exudes a jaunty countenance. His lead is intermingled with punctuated counterpoint by the horns and acoustic guitar. It is very melodic and celebratory with a layered arrangement. “Be Happy” kicks off with bouncy aesthetics, but muscular transitions (with visceral percussion) and Oskar’s soulful lines are compelling. On “Morning Rush”, Oskar and the horns create a more deliberate pulsating rock tempo to address the intensity of a work environment. But there is an extended interlude with ethereal flute, exotic stringed instruments as a balance. In a change of pace, the title track is more winsome with ballad-like atmospherics. There are interesting chord changes.
In another different interpretation, “Memories” kicks off with a folk-infused duet of harmonica and acoustic guitar. As the band combines, it becomes a multi-faceted, smooth groove fest with Oskar utilizing vibrato skill. Shifting musical gears again, “Most Favored Nation” employs a distinctive reggae beat. Oskar’s lead (solo and in unison) glows with tenderness. There is an edgy undercurrent here, as a jagged electric guitar run underscores the political message described in the liner notes. Of course, it sways with laid-back energy. Oskar’s long-term association with up tempo r & b is captured on one of the album singles, “Funky Rhetoric”. The harmonica licks are crisp and bristle with passionate articulation. There is a call and response with the horn section. In a more sentimental translation, “Sweet Lullaby” is delivered like a reverie. The interplay with harmonica and acoustic piano is meticulous. Oskar’s belief in positive social behavior is at the core of the finale and second single, “One-World Fist”. This is the most audacious instrumental translation with syncopated rhythm and modulation with a freer jazzy elocution.
She Said Mahalo is great musical achievement, in both artistic integrity and musical presentation.
She Said Mahalo
Lee Oskar – harmonica; Darian Asplund – saxophone; Takahira Miyazaki – saxophone; Paul Hanson – bassoon; Randy Oxford – trombone; Harold Brown – drums, percussion; Andrew Cloutier – drums; Thione Diop – percussion; Denali Williams – bongo, tambourine; Dean Schmidt – bass; Brian Montgomery – guitar; Alex Mortland – guitar; Joe Doria – organ; Mack Grout – keyboards, piano; Phil Peterson – strings; Andrew Jostlyn – strings; “Sancho” Youichrou Suzuki – shakuhachi; Mayuko Higo – shamisen
Caribbean Love Song; Children Of The World; Be Happy; Morning Rush; She Said Mahalo; Memories; Most Favored Nation; Funky Rhetoric; Sweet Lullaby; One-World Fist
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