Cliff Hines, Wanderlust (Independent)

Cliff Hines, Wanderlust, album cover

Call this one New Orleans-based jazztronica with a variety of global (African, Brazilian, Caribbean, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Spanish, as well as American swing, hip-hop and rock) influences, which makes great sense given the city’s proud history as a musical melting pot. Hines’ all-original material is inspired by current events, fiction, folktales, history and rapid changes in an increasingly digital world.
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Crescent City guitarist Cliff Hines’ quintet (with singer Sasha Masakowski, pianist Andrew McGowan, drummer Paul Thibodeaux and bassist Jasen Weaver) is backed on various tracks by 16 other local musicians, including slide guitarist Dave Easley, cellist Helen Gillet, flutist Kent Jordan, percussionist Bill Summers and bassist James Singleton, to name but a few.

While “Dresden” reflects musically on the firebombing of that German city during World War II, “Tehran” was inspired by the Arab Spring of revolution that spread through the Middle East two years ago. Gillet’s cello work is featured on both. “Aetherea” has the most traditional New Orleans feel, anchored by Singleton, Michael Watson’s brass band-like trombone solo, Rex Gregory on bass clarinet and McGowan’s rollicking trad piano homage. “Clouds” chillingly links Japan’s two nuclear crises—Hiroshima-Nagasaki in 1945 and the after effects of 2011’s coastal tsunami. Hines teams up with Easley’s sitar-like slide guitar work and Andrew McLean on tabla for the beautiful raga “Arjana Intro.” Masakowski’s mostly wordless vocals are responsible for the ethereal feel on many of the 12 tracks.

The leader’s fine guitar work takes a back seat to his words and his stunning concept here. The title track, with words written by Hines and solos from Summers and Jordan, explores how one can transcending cultures and boundaries – and travel without ever moving. Digitally, of course. Just click the mouse.