World Jazz Picks From 'Global Village'

Originally published on March 27, 2011 5:11 pm

Betto Arcos has been on Weekend All Things Considered before, spinning love songs on Valentine's Day, new music from Mexico and other favorites. Now Arcos joins host Guy Raz to share just a few of his favorite new jazz records, which he's been playing on his KPFK radio show in Los Angeles, Global Village.

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(Soundbite of song, "Night Train to You")

GUY RAZ, host:

Take a listen to this track. It's by the Marcin Wasilewski Trio. It's a jazz ensemble who are getting a lot of attention in Europe right now. The song is called "Night Train to You." And it's just one of many new jazz records that our friend and frequent guest Betto Arcos has been spinning on his radio show. It's called "Global Village." You can hear it on KPFK in Los Angeles and online. Betto is with me now.

Great to have you back.

Mr. BETTO ARCOS (Host, "Global Village"): Thanks, Guy. Always great to be with you.

RAZ: So I know, Betto, judging from the past appearances on this program, you're a huge fan of pianos, especially jazz piano. Tell me about the Marcin Wasilewski Trio.

Mr. ARCOS: Yeah. You're right. Piano is really my favorite instrument. The Marcin Wasilewski Trio are really the most well-known jazz trio from Poland. They are musicians who started out as teenagers working together. So they've known each other for a while.

Now, what makes this trio unique is that these are musicians who are not only well-schooled in classical music and jazz, but they really give their own kind of perspective on jazz from a distinctly European approach.

It's not like American jazz where, you know, people think that they have to swing; it has to have this kind of very American sound. And I'm not a jazz critic by any means. I love melody. I love hearing a soulful melody, a great pianist. And that's what I love about this music. It touches me at the emotional level.

This song, like the rest of the album, is just simply beautiful.

(Soundbite of song, "Night Train to You")

RAZ: All right, Betto, we are on a global jazz tour around the world. We're in Poland. We're going to jump right across Europe to Morocco. This is somebody you brought in, her name is Malika Zarra, and I think it's fair to say a pretty distinctive sound.

(Soundbite of song, "Tamazight")

Ms. MALIKA ZARRA (Musician): (Singing in foreign language).

RAZ: So, Betto, to me it sounds a little bit like a Ry Cooder project, and I mean that in the most complimentary of ways. I mean, it doesn't sound like what you would think of when you say jazz.

Mr. ARCOS: Yeah. It's very different. I mean, when I first got the CD, you know, it took me a couple of days to get into it. But once I started really getting into the groove, into the music, I understood what she was trying to do.

She's really blending. She's bringing together Moroccan music with jazz. And that's I think what, for me, it attracted me really quite a bit.

The album is called "Berber Taxi." And Berber, it's a reference to people who are indigenous to Morocco. Malika's mother is Berber. So she grew up in a household where she listened to Berber and Arab Moroccan music.

All of these sounds come together, all of these influences, all of this traditional music from Morocco, comes together in her record. This is a song called "Tamazight." It's - literally means Berber woman, and it's essentially dedicated to the strength and courage of the Berber women.

(Soundbite of song, "Tamazight")

Ms. MALIKA ZARRA (Singer): (Singing in foreign language).

RAZ: That's great stuff. That's great stuff. My guest is Betto Arcos. He's the host of KPFK's "Global Village" in Los Angeles, and we're listening to a few of his favorite global jazz picks.

Betto, I think I'm hearing the next one coming up under me.

(Soundbite of song, "Calle 7")

Mr. ARCOS: This is Vinicius Cantuaria and Bill Frisell. Vinicius is a respected Brazilian musician. He's worked with, among others, Caetano Veloso. He was part of his band back in the '80s. He wrote some songs, actually were hits for Caetano.

In the mid-'90s, he moved to New York and started collaborating with musicians there. That's where he met Bill Frisell. No, I've known Bill Frisell's music for over 20 years. As far as I'm concerned in guitar, he's someone that you really can't label because he plays just about everything. He plays jazz, he plays rocks, he plays blues.

Vinicius and him have been on each other's records. And, you know, they've been wanting to do something for a while together on their own project. And so Vinicius came up with the idea for this project, and he called it "Lagrimas Mexicanas."

(Soundbite of song, "Calle 7")

Mr. VINICIUS CANTUARIA (Singer): (Singing in foreign language).

Mr. ARCOS: It was inspired by Vinicius' upbringing in Brazil. He grew up listening to, of all things, Mexican music and watching Mexican movies from the Golden Age. Then when he moved to New York in the mid-'90s, he saw all of these immigrants from Latin America, and they reminded him of his childhood, and so he came up with this album.

This particular song, "Calle 7," it's about 7th Avenue in Brooklyn. He says that when he walks down the street, he hears all kinds of different accents from all over Latin America. And that's what inspired him to do this song.

RAZ: It seems like almost anything Bill Frisell touches is amazing, Betto. And we could just play this out for the rest of the segment, but we have time for just one more, pretty different from the rest of what you brought in this week. And you've been spinning this on your program.

This is a band called Tirtha, and it's led by the pianist Vijay Iyer. This song, let's see, it's called "Entropy and Time." That's pretty deep, man. That's pretty philosophical, dude.

Mr. ARCOS: Yeah. This is just an amazing collaboration of three musicians who -you know, Vijay Iyer is American and has Indian parents, and the guitarist Prasanna from South India, from Chennai, formerly Madras, Nitan Mitta, who plays tabla. He plays the Hindustani tabla.

So, in a sense, three traditions coming together, South Indian music, which is called carnatic, classical music, and North Indian music is Hindustani. And then you bring in Vijay Iyer, who's a pianist in jazz, and he sort of brings them together.

This is just so, so wonderful.

(Soundbite of song, "Entropy and Time")

RAZ: The band is called Tirtha, and it's just one of Betto Arcos' favorite new jazz recordings from around the world. You can hear more on Betto's program. It's called "Global Village." You can hear it on KPFK in Los Angeles and online. Just don't listen to it while this program's airing, of course, right, Betto? Fair enough?

Mr. ARCOS: Fair enough.

RAZ: Betto, as always, it's been great having you here on the program. And thanks for bringing these tunes in. These are great.

Mr. ARCOS: My pleasure, guy.

(Soundbite of song, "Entropy and Time")

RAZ: And for Sunday, that's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

Don't forget to subscribe to our podcast, WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED at iTunes or at We post a new episode each Sunday night. We're back on the radio next weekend. Until then, thanks for listening, and have a great week. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.