, but it hurts SO GOOD!

Zzwing! (2008)

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San Diego’s Zzymzzy Quartet combines gypsy stylings with the great American songbook to make swing music that’s slinky and danceable. On their debut album Zzwing!, the combo enlists some of San Diego’s best musicians to play classics like “If I Had You”, exotic numbers like “Gnossienne”, and originals like the “Baby Django Creep”. For upcoming shows or to book the band, click here.

  1. Lover, Come Back to Me
  2. Gnossienne No. 1, Lent
  3. Judy
  4. Caravan
  5. Baby Django Promenade
  6. What’ll I Do?
  7. Let Yourself Go
  8. If I Had You
  9. Tico-Tico No Fuba
  10. Baby Django Boom-Boom
  11. The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise
  12. Baby Django Creep

Zzymzzy Quartet:

  • Beston Barnett – guitar, vocals
  • Matt Gill – clarinet
  • Patrick Marion – upright bass
  • Pete Miesner – guitar, lead vocals


  • Rob Duncan – accordion
  • Chad Farran – doumbek
  • Chloe Feoranzo – tenor saxophone
  • Hal Smith – kit drums
  • Ray Suen – violin


May 2007

Those Gypsy swingers sure get around and the Zzymzzy Quartet is no exception. From Django Hot Club licks by Caravan to South America and New York City, the group covers songs by major songwriters and personalities (Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, and others) and do some of their own stuff too, which happily doesn’t suffer by comparison. The songs range in a time capsule that covers the late 19th century, and mostly the 1930s (even the 1893 “Gnossienne No. 1, Lent” has a 1930’s klezmer touch). Even the Dukish “Caravan” sounds a bit like these guys are hauling bagels from the East Side to Tel Aviv with a stop at the Hot Club to give Django a bite.

We are living in a time when Django Reinhardt is being revered as a minor (at least) deity and every city has a Hot Club or Gypsy swing group of its own. I only have to play Django on my “Jazz Roots” radio show (KSDS 88.3 – a shameless plug) to have the phone light up. There are quite a few people out there playing this music, but very few people playing it as well as these guys. They do all of it well, from the latin “Tico Tico,” the slow standard “What’ll I Do,” and even a touch of Les Paul and Mary Ford on “The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise” although that Gypsy swing guitar creeps in here too.

The group consists of lead guitarist (and harmony vocalist where needed) Beston Barnett who is mighty fine on old time tunes and his own compositions as well. The clarinet player is Matt Gill who lets good taste keep his solos in bounds (he doesn’t try to be Benny Goodman or Dave Taras, he plays what’s needed). Pete Miesner is sort of in the same category with his vocals. He doesn’t try to sound black or British; he doesn’t mumble – just the words that you can understand presented in a pleasing format (his solid rhythm is okay too). Patrick Marion’s bass is just what’s needed to round out the sound. Guestings by Ray Suen (always a good choice in whatever group he plays that hot violin with) and Rob Duncan’s accordion really adds that French cabaret sound. I hadn’t heard Chloe Feoranzo’s tenor sax before, but she really gives that Johnny Hodges-Harry Carney-Otto Hardwick sound to “Caravan.” Chad Farran’s doumbek is a nice touch that even Ellington didn’t think of.
I only have one criticism of this group. The recording should have been issued on 78s so I could play it on “Jazz Roots.” This is one I would hope is in the KSDS record library so that folks around there and other jazz radio stations will play it. The only problem is that with a name like Zzymzzy, they’re not exactly going to be first up in alphabetical listings. Maybe that just means an extra special surprise when you get to the end.

Petite Fleur (2017)

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petite_fleur_front_600On Petite Fleur, San Diego’s Zzymzzy Quartet combines gypsy stylings with the great American songbook to make swing music that’s slinky and danceable. Tackling greats like Sidney Bechet, Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael, and Irving Berlin, the quartet’s second album adds kit drums, trombone, melodica, and slide guitar to the combo. For upcoming shows or to book the band, click here.

  1. Petite Fleur
  2. Who’s Sorry Now?
  3. Who Walks In When I Walk Out?
  4. In a Sentimental Mood / Solitude
  5. Swing Gitan
  6. Lazy River
  7. Baby Djangov
  8. My Walking Stick
  9. Some of These Days
  10. Si Tu Vois Ma Mere
  11. My Little Grass Shack
  12. Blue Drag
  13. Sweet Georgia Brown

Zzymzzy Quartet:

  • Beston Barnett – guitar, vocals
  • Matt Gill – clarinet
  • Paul Hormick – upright bass
  • Pete Miesner – guitar, lead vocals


  • Toby Ahrens – kit drums
  • Bruce Doyle – slide guitar
  • Billy Hawkins – trombone, melodica


At the Sligo Fair (2014)

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sligo_fair_front500At the Sligo Fair – Songs from Yeats is a fantastical concept album in which Beston Barnett imagines himself to be William Butler Yeats’ songwriting partner: the words of the great Irish poet are mined for mood and given melody.  Working with producer Daniel Tashian in his Nashville studio, penny whistle and bodhran meet pedal steel and drums to create a modern folk-rock record that sounds like a book of poems.

  1. The Fiddler of Dooney
  2. Down by the Salley Gardens
  3. Before the World was Made
  4. Her Anxiety, His Confidence
  5. Avalon
  6. The Indian Upon God
  7. Why Does My Heart Beat So?
  8. The Meditation of the Old Fisherman
  9. Solomon to Sheba
  10. Crazy Jane on God
  11. My Paistin Finn
  12. Brown Penny
  13. The Song of Wandering Aengus
  14. To the Rose Upon the Rood of Time
  • Beston Barnett – lead vocals, guitars, oud, cavaquinho, basses, organs, piano, berimbau, hand percussion
  • Josh Culley – tin whistles, bodhran, flutes, bouzouki, accordion
  • Jim Hoke – pedal steel, flutes, clarinets, harmonica, vibraphone
  • John Mailander – violin
  • Daniel Tashian – drums, keyboards, lap steel, backing vocals, electric guitar, banjo, mandolin, bass, that piano solo
  • Jon Wright – backing vocals, whistling

all words by William Butler Yeats, all melody and arrangement by Beston Barnett

co-produced by Beston Barnett and Daniel Tashian


San Diego Troubadour, March 2014 – by Jon Kanis

I passed a little further on and heard a lotus talk
Who made the world and ruleth it, He hangeth on a stalk,
For I am in His image made, and all this tinkling tide
Is but a sliding drop of rain between His petals wide.
– “The Indian Upon God” by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

What a beautiful idea: take the work of a classic poet and set their verse to music. It is an idea that has played itself out in various projects before (Alan Parsons’ trawl through the works of Edgar Allan Poe of course comes to mind) – but nothing that you’ve heard before sounds as charming and compelling as the latest sonic offering by the exceptionally talented Beston Barnett. At the Sligo Fair is a bacchanalian Renaissance of festival proportions that presents the lyrical gifts of Ireland’s most celebrated poet laureate in a sparkling new context. For 46 glorious minutes it is a galloping, glorious ride that rocks and sways and satisfies in a perfectly integrated swirl of the modern day and the anachronistic. There are few poets of the 20th century as revered as William Butler Yeats and the adaptability of his insightful verse is put to the test by multi-instrumentalist Barnett. The results emerge in flying colors – in other words the music is majestically marvelous.

At the Sligo Fair is Barnett’s ninth solo LP and was recorded in his native Nashville. His main collaborator on the project is co-producer/drummer Daniel Tashian, who contributes instrumentation of every sort. Tashian is, of course, the son of Holly and Barry Tashian (of Boston’s legendary The Remains). Appropriately enough, there is plenty of Irish tin-whistle along with flute, pedal steel, and high-strung guitar. Why, there’s even a little bossa nova thrown in for good measure. And special mention must be made of John Mailander’s superlative fiddle playing, which shines across this entire album.

In the 15 years since his debut album Chrysalis, Barnett has become quite the fixture on the San Diego music scene. In addition to his solo work he also plays guitar and sings with the outstanding gypsy café jazz ensemble the Zzymzzy Quartet (see story, pps. 8-9).

At the Sligo Fair is a wonderful marriage of melody with the language of love at the fore and there’s not an ounce of angst to be found throughout the proceedings. The entire affair jangles with the merriment of a grand celebration after a long and fruitful harvest, without ever sounding archaic or dead. The melodies are sublimely superb with more hooks than your granddaddy’s tackle box.

In addition to being a very fine musician, singer, and songwriter, Barnett also is a top-notch designer who creates his own line of custom-made furniture. That goes a long way toward explaining the earthiness of his music, as he is a woodworker by trade. He has crafted an exquisite jewel of an album. Yeats ought to be proud.

Senegalesa (2013)

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faba_loba_frontcover500Senegal + Cuba + LA

Faba Loba‘s debut album fuses Senegalese kora, raw electric funk, Cuban percussion, hip-hop beats, multilingual singing – basically everything wonderful in the African Diaspora cooked up in one pot.   Ibou Ba sings in French and Wolof over Beston Barnett’s boiling guitars, organs, and percussion, Lica Cardona’s Spanish chants, Amadou Fall’s electrifying kora, and Rafi eL’s sick beats and dance-floor productions.

  1. Senegalesa
  2. Immigration Clandestine
  3. Lo Digo Yo
  4. Xalat
  5. Luz de la Candela
  6. Latde
  7. Lolambe
  8. Iré a Dakar
  9. Dale La Piñata
  10. Baykat By
  11. Therno
  • Ibou Ba – lead vocals
  • Beston Barnett – guitars, organs, hand percussion, backing vocals
  • Lica Cardona – backing vocals
  • Rafi eL – beats, keyboards, electronica
  • Amadou Fall – kora

© 2013 ART HURTS Publishing

all songs written by I. Ba, B. Barnett, A. Fall, and R. Loiederman

co-produced by Beston Barnett and Rafi El


fROOTS Magazine – by Rick Sanders

    Superb album, bursting with joy and experiment. All put together more as a recording project than an actual band, with two griot-background Senegalese providing lead vocals and kora, a Cuban on vocals, and two LA Americans on “beats, keyboard and electronica” and guitars, organs, percussion and backing vocals. So there’s the canvas and paints. What sings out as the CD proceeds is the affinity that comes from musicians who mutually inspire. It doesn’t really matter so much what makes what or from where as what heart and art goes into what. So you get a deep growly electronic slab of riff with bubbles of kora bursting overhead that leads into a few bars of soukous guitar and a voice that sounds like Baaba Maal’s brother. That good. And all the potential clutter of a production like this doesn’t get a chance to root – the housekeeping and editing is sharp and clear. Every element gets space to be heard. Delicious music.

Songlines – by Nigel Williamson

An Afro-Cuban rhythmic riot

Senegalese griot styles, Cuban sassiness, Afro-funk power, slamming dance floor beats and swirling layers of electronica are all thrown into a melting pot by the hybrid San Diego-based collective Faba Loba.  If it sounds like a recipe for a complete disaster, in reality it turns out to be ridiculously good.  The kora playing of Amadou Fall and the soulful Wolof voice of Ibou Ba (both of whom also perform as the California-based duo Sene Africa) provide much of the melodic impetus.  The funk comes from Beston Barnett’s subtle guitar and organ fills, the rhythmic intensity from the dance floor grooves and remixing of beatmaster Rafi El and the Cuban spice from the rumba choruses of backing vocalist Lica Cardona.  The diverse elements are calibrated perfectly and the fusion reaches its apotheosis on ‘Dale La Piñata’, on which Ba sounds uncannily like Youssou N’Dour as he wails soulfully over an infectious, dubby hip-hop beat laced with sparkling kora arpeggios and Cardona’s Cubano choruses.  The title-track is almost as good, a funk-fuelled cut-up on which the musical traditions of Dakar, Havana and Los Angeles collide with thrilling urbanity.

The Noise of Wings (2011)

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noise_frontcover500In The Noise of Wings, Beston Barnett performs a selection of hundred-year-old gospel standards, some hewing close to a traditional style while others explore African, Caribbean, or Latin-American interpretations.  His notes from the album are below.

  1. Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho (unknown)
  2. Angel Band (W. B. Bradbury, J. Hascall, 1860)
  3. Farther Along (Rev. W. A. Fletcher, 1911)
  4. Just a Closer Walk with Thee (unknown)
  5. Rock My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham (unknown)
  6. Moses Moses (unknown)
  7. Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (E. Sontonga, J. Parry, 1897)
  8. I’ll Fly Away (A. E. Brumley, 1929)
  9. I Don’t Care Where They Bury My Body (unknown)
  10. Nearer My God to Thee (S. F. Adams, L. Mason, 1856)
  11. Swing Down Sweet Chariot (unknown)
  12. When the Saints Go Marching In (K. Purvis, J. M. Black, 1896)
  13. The Old Ship of Zion (M. J. Cartwright, D. B. Towner, 1889)


Stories written two to three thousand years ago by religious groups whose central self-identifying experience was escape from slavery, those stories then translated into English under King James at a moment when the language was at its most inventive and vibrant, those words then transmogrified into moans, shouts, and hollers by another people just themselves freed and struggling in the aftermath of slavery: traditional African-American gospel is some of the heaviest songwriting out there.  The subject matter is death: death as revelator of mysteries, as re-uniter of families and communities, as final comfort against earthly sorrows.  It’s a sentiment that can be balm or joyful railing or bittersweet delusion, but these songs surely carry a universal power for believers and non-believers alike.

I grew up a sort of cultural half-Jew in Nashville, atheist as I could be, and still am.  But I also grew up with gospel music, and loved it, and hear it still as the most lucid dream of home.  I connected with it directly – bypass the brain and straight to the heart – but as I became a musician, I of course pieced its technical elements together: simple chords and basic melody, rhythm of layered syncopations, endless vocal possibilities for texture and pathos.  I learned to play music from the Congo, South Africa, Brazil, Cuba, and everywhere I went within the towering architecture of the Great Tree of the African Musical Diaspora, I felt resonances of home.

In this collection of old gospel songs, I invent nothing.  Some tracks I hew close to traditional; others, it’s as if I’d cobbled together a long vine-y bridge between two disparate branches of the Great Tree.  But every folkloric zigzag I took seems like it was latent, as the forest is latent in the seed.  The Congo, South Africa, Brazil, Cuba were there already.  Haunting.

To anyone wanting to hear the original sources that inspired this album, I recommend as a starting place: Josh White, Reverend Gary Davis, the Georgia Sea Island Singers, the Golden Gate Quartet, Reverend Cleophus Robinson.


San Diego Troubadour – by Lou Curtiss

When I listen to gospel music, it’s mostly the primitive Baptist music of Southern Appalachia, or a good Jubilee Quartet like the Golden Gate, or the Heavenly Gospel Singers or maybe a more modern ‘50s-ish group like the Swan Silvertones or Dixie Hummingbirds.  Maybe I’ll listen to a fine bluegrass or old timey gospel number by the Blue Sky Boys or Bill Monroe.  I almost never listen to modern gospel songs, and I don’t believe Beston Barnett has much either.   In his latest CD, The Noise of Wings, I hear a lot of old time sounds here.  Some have been taken and played in a style that heretofore hasn’t been done before like a knock out West Indian version of “Angel Band” and another of “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” and an almost bluesy version of “Rock My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham.” Some are more or less presented in a traditional manner like “Moses Moses,” which sounds like an old Georgia Sea Island presentation, or an African piece “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” or right out of a Golden Gate Quartet 78 “Swing Down Sweet Chariot” and one of those more modern churchy groups gives out “Old Ship of Zion.” Little highlights of jazz, various kinds of Latin and African rhythms plus some very tasteful resonator guitar licks top off the score.

Where it’s needed you might hear the clarinet of Matt Gill, or the drum kit of Matt Taylor, or the cornet of Bruce Vermazen, or even some harmonica, whistling, and triangle by Jeffrey Joe Morin, Pete Miesner, and Chad Farran; and the bongos of Aaron Irwin, but only where it adds something to the performance.  I hear so many presentations where friends are added to the mix, only I think because they are friends, and they only add to a mix that doesn’t sound anything like the performer intended, but you can’t refuse that “hey, can I be on your CD and my feelings will be hurt if I’m not” vibe.  That isn’t the case here.  In most every case the backup is just what is needed to make the performance what it was intended to be.

The is a fine recording, the music is tight and well put together and should please those who are gospel fans or not.

loneliness and freedom waltz together through the night (2007)

AHR010 (2007) produced by Beston Barnett

AHR010 (2007)
produced by Beston Barnett

Beston’s seventh release of original material is stripped down to simple arrangements for guitar and voice. The songs too have been stripped down to reveal bare heart-ache, skeletal longing. Taken together they form a story (just as their titles form a kind of poem), a relationship arc from break-up to forgetting. Each song explores in some way, both melodically and lyrically, the dual nature of being alone: the heaviness of loneliness weighing down the stark lightness of freedom.

1. The only way to go is alone
2. but you won’t really know what to feel
3. when loneliness and freedom waltz together through the night
4. in a beautiful place with high mountain air
5. tracing tattoos across a cloud
6. with these few signs
7. your love and your loss
8. woven into one shimmering thread.



       The old advertising slogan, “been there, done that,” comes to mind almost unbidden when one is presented with music by a singer-songwriter whose voice is accompanied by an acoustic guitar. The scene is abundantly populated with people who arrange their music in this tried and true fashion. So it is incumbent upon such artists to make their songs intriguing, be it through emotional vocals, insightful lyrics, innovative song structures, or instrumental skill: preferably an artful combination of them all.
       On his latest release, loneliness and freedom waltz together through the night, Nashville expatriate and current North Park resident Beston Barnett has crafted a sound that is unique and interesting. A long-time practitioner of genres as varied as world music and hip-hop, he creates an atmosphere that is warm and sincere. And he does it with just his voice and a guitar.
       This CD is more of an EP than an album, clocking in as it does at a little under half an hour. However, it is instantly appealing from the first song “the only way to go is alone”. Barnett’s voice is warm and inviting, expressing a sincerity that is hard to resist. His guitar playing is interesting, in that he makes unusual choices of chords and techniques that lend an exotic quality to the songs. More often than not, he opts for an intricate finger picking style instead of merely strumming the chords, which adds texture and complexity to his music.
       The title song is notable for its straightforward presentation and unusual lyrical imagery. Its protagonist is seemingly going through the routine motions of living, yet he manages to find deep meaning in the most mundane of observations. The music twists and turns through some unexpected chord changes, at times evoking the late Michael Hedges at his best. The follow-up track, “in a beautiful place with high mountain air”, might also be a strong contender for the title, as its lovely melody and lyrics are perfectly suited to the pristine and sparse arrangements that define this recording. In fact, all of the tunes have a real tendency to get under your skin after a while. And that’s a good thing!
       Barnett has a curious penchant for long song titles, but he crafts songs that are succinct and to the point. While this collection’s short running time might be considered a negative by some, it serves one of show business’s most cherished tenets: always leave ’em wanting more!


The only way to go is alone

written by Beston Barnett
everybody says that we’ve been great
everybody whispers it’s too late
some thoughts, they seem like one-way trains
and the only way to go is to go
angel sing and devil dance
leaf fall from the tree
close your eyes and say goodnight
and be… free… of me
saw you at our favorite taco shop
the happy couple might have stopped to talk
could barely move my legs like lead
and my voice too scared, too weak, or too dumb to speak
angel sing and devil dance
leaf fall from the tree
have your cry then say goodbye
and be… free… of me
it all can come apart so suddenly
so don’t think you can know, no, no, don’t tease
some things you do are one-way trains
and the only way to go is alone
angel sing and devil dance
leaf fall from the tree
dry your eyes then drive all night
and be… free… of me

but you won’t really know what to feel

written by Beston Barnett
if only there was some
anger to lean on
if only there was blame
where loss has left you numb
if only you could guess
could know to rage or bless
and, priestly, nod your head
to those who would confess
if only…
but you won’t really know what to feel
until it’s over
the smile has learned to lie
the words are in the sky
a shadow’s on the sand
your lover’s said goodbye
and if only you were told
the way back to the road
if only there was love
not this complicated code
if only…
you wish the pain would come
relieve this tedium
then you could start to live
the life of the undone
undone by what’s been said
undone beyond this dread
if only there was clar-
ity in your broken bed

when loneliness and freedom waltz together through the night

written by Beston Barnett
how the fading light crosses the room
the way that dust glows flying from the broom
and it all must be swept away
no one sees it anyway
cause I’m cleaning the house alone, singing
circus bird light on my window
you bring the booze, this time I’ve got the show
we’ll toast the new moon, and we’ll drink a tune as we watch
loneliness and freedom waltz together through the night
here’s an empty street at dawn
when all of the streetlights are still turned on
and the sky is red with pain
every new town feels the same
when you’re walking its streets alone, calling out
gravedigger wave through the twilight
you say I’m wrong but you know that I’m right
there’s bodies and bones, and there’s ghosts that moan when they feel
loneliness and freedom waltz together through the night
I may be alone and I may be free
free to replay these last memories
of that song our bodies made
it’s a song that will not fade
how’d we turn away from its call, crying
ghost lover, fly through the crossfire
I’m here waiting with paper and pen
put your hand in mine and we’ll dance in rhyme, just like when
loneliness and freedom waltz together through the night

in a beautiful place with high mountain air

written by Beston Barnett
how long would you love me?
how true would you be?
and if it costs you your friends
in the balance with your pen?
would you break? would you bend?
even then, would you love me?
your lungs ache to know me
how much would you know?
and if the cost is your name?
payment weighed out in shame
as you try to transcend
even then, would you love me?
and when the web of their love
holds you fast like a fist
and won’t let you breathe
will you think of me then?
my love is a knife
that can cut you free
how long would you love me?
how deep would you cut..
and if the cost is your soul
burning bridges take their toll
would you burn them again?
and again, would you love me?
how far would you take me?
how clean would you break?
and if the cost is your life
your house, your dogs, and your wife
and all that you could have been
in the end, would you love me?
it’s your heart and your lungs
one wants love, one wants air
they won’t both be appeased
will you think of me now?
my love is a knife
it will cut out your heart
it will strand you alone
in a beautiful place
with high mountain air
my love flies you there
as long as you dare
to only love me

tracing tattoos across a cloud

written by Beston Barnett
a call to nowhere
from the airport phone
then glide through the night
on a flight back home
this lonely life
you’ve ruined it for me
can’t seem to read
at the speed of sound
so I watch the moon
trace tattoos across a cloud
and this lonely life
you’ve ruined it for me
and I can’t begin to forget where I’ve been
in your orchard with all of your sin
a call to nowhere
are you there? say hello
like a discarded apple, I fall
will we all end so low?
cause this lonely life
you’ve ruined it for me
and I can’t begin to forget where I’ve been
in your orchard with all of your sin

with these few signs

written by Beston Barnett
you, you close the blinds
you make up your mind
you finish your coffee
with one last look
close up your book
and put it all away
the time is come
when you don’t have to wish for nothing more
wave from the door
cutie pie ,
cutie pie , these days are done
mmm, you turn to go
you lock the door
click off the porch light
with these few signs
you leave your shine
here in the dark
the time is come
when you don’t have to wish for nothing less
twirl your dress
cutie pie ,
cutie pie , these days are done

your love and your loss

written by Beston Barnett
we sold all your stuff
my girlfriend said it’s rough
sleeping with all that overhead
just an ordinary scene
boxes full of faded dreams
thrown across the yard like kids throw leaves
we sold them cheap
there was no way to foretell
how the house would lose your smell
how for me your face would fade
so I’ve marshalled these strange chords
to dig beneath the floor
and bring back word of love that never dies
it just gets fossilized
a haze and a gloss
your love and your loss
sink into the sediment
and I’ll hold you in my clay
those lost golden days
are singing through my mouth, my hands, my eyes
know you in disguise

woven into one shimmering thread.

written by Beston Barnett
       Note: Like the chapter titles in Italo Calvino’s novel If on a winter’s night a traveler, the song titles can be read in order to form a sentence – a sort of summation of the theme of the CD: “The only way to go is alone, but you won’t really know what to feel when loneliness and freedom waltz together through the night in a beautiful place with high mountain air, tracing tattoos across a cloud – with these few signs, your love and your loss [are] woven into one shimmering thread.”
star bright
brighten up my dream tonight
help me
sleep through to the day
done in
and weary as I’ve ever been
guide me
down Morpheus’ way
good night, wherever you are
good night
full moon
loom across this sleeping room
rest here
on my quilted bed
scattered bights of dark and light
woven into
one shimmering thread
good night, wherever you are
good night

Da Rua Dos Ossos (2006)


AHR009 (2006)
produced by Beston Barnett

Juju Duarte  is an old Bahian statesman that’s spent most of his life singing samba professionally. Da Rua Dos Ossos (or “From the Street of Bones” – it’s the name of the street he lives on, just north of the Pelourinho in Salvador da Bahia), recorded partly in his house in Brazil and partly here in San Diego, covers many styles of Brazilian music – samba velho, bossa nova, samba de roda, pagode. To the extent that all North and South American popular music is a mix of African and European, this album leans towards the African with more percussion and melody, less harmony and less frills. There’s also a lot of sounds recorded from the marketplace, the street, and Juju’s bird-filled house mixed in between songs. Taken as a whole, it is a portrait of a master singer’s many-hued life and loves.

1. Foi Agora Que Eu Chegei
2. Felicidade
3. Deixa A Vida Me Levar
4. Le Le Le Baiana
5. Trem Das Onze
6. Juju canta do Santo Antonio
7. Batucada de Gandhi
8. O Barquinho
9. Madelena
10. Piaba
11. Ignacio
12. Não Vou Pra Casa
13. Juju toca caixa de fósforos
14. Estrada Do Sol
15. Juju canta de Joujoux
16. Samba Da Minha Terra
17. Maria Baiana Maria
18. Do Fundo Do Nosso Quintal
19. Juju dá um bate-papo do Rio


AFROPOP – by Banning Eyre

       Juju Duarte is an unsung treasure of backstreet Rio de Janeiro. He sang for 20 years in samba clubs in Rio, but also at religious gatherings and street parties. His producer and collaborator here, American musical adventurer Beston Barnett, describes him as “an encyclopedia of Brazilian music.” That may be, but what makes this record so enjoyable, is its folksy, straightforward presentation, as if we, like Barnett, were invited into Juju`s funky home for an intimate music party. Most of these 19 tracks are tuneful bossa novas and gently loping sambas, backed minimally by acoustic guitar, bass, and light percussion, and featuring Juju singing fantastically beautiful melodies with joyful, informal ease.
       Juju can croon like a bossa nova romantic (“Estrada Do Sol”) or make a samba funky with scratchy romanticism (“Deixa A Vida Me Levar”) or as moody and melodious as a Cape Verdean morna (“Trem Das Onze”). But there`s a street edge to Juju`s performance that separates these recordings from just about any acoustic-oriented Brazilian release you`ll find. The album works in a couple of a capella performances, short stretches of Juju reminiscing in Portuguese, and some great ambient sounds – lots of singing birds, bands marching by, street drums, partying voices. All this makes for a fast-moving, deeply satisfying flow. Barnett plays a variety of instruments here, and invites others to bring in a delightful array of acoustic sounds – cavaquinho, flute, berimbau, and on one track, what sounds like a bassoon. The accompaniment is tasty but never obtrusive letting this be truly Juju`s session.
       There are a few familiar tunes here, two Jobim bossas, and a samba party classic, “Maria Baiana Maria.” But all but the best educated listeners will make discoveries in Juju`s “street of bones.” Two numbers, “Madelena” and “Ignacio” tilt towards Afro Cuban music, the latter even incorporating a clave pattern played on an African bell. If you long for the unvarnished, folksy side of roots samba – that magic mix of urban and rural – without a trace of artificiality or packaging, this one is for you.

THE BEAT – Vol. 26, No. 2, 2007 – by Robert Ambrose

       From juju music to Juju Duarte is a jump in continents as well as music style, but the simple acoustic recording of this Brazilian senior has the same allure of authentic music played well and with heart. The songs captured on this session span the history of Brazilian popular music from bossa nova to samba. Duarte sings with an expressive, rich voice that seems comfortable with the various styles, and equally confident in the various recording venues that range from living room to studio. During some of the songs, one can hear birds singing along in the background, and the rich ambient sound fills in the space between a few songs.
       I am a slave to percussion and appreciate the multiple textures created by producer Beston Barnett to capture the spirit of Bahia. `Le Le Le Baiana` features the iconic berimbau, stringed percussion foundation for capoeira; very nice. Snippets of live street music and sounds, mixed in with and between songs, add to the spirit of this recording, which offers an aural visit to Salvador, capital of Bahian culture. The CD ends with an extended conversation with Juju in Brazilian Portuguese, a beautiful language to listen to, but it is a track I chose not to put on the iPod. The rest of the album is thoroughly enjoyable, full of generous singing by an unheralded master.

WORLD MUSIC CENTRAL – “Roots Samba from Bones Street” – by Angel Romero

       Da Rua Dos Ossos pays tribute to a legendary Brazilian singer, Juju Duarte. Producer Beston Barnett traveled to Salvador da Bahia in Brazil to record the vocals of the veteran singer. Additional music was recorded in San Diego (California).
       Duarte has dedicated most of his artistic life to singing samba. For Da Rua Dos Ossos, Duarte chose a collection of Afro-Brazilian songs which include several styles: samba velho, bossa nova, samba de roda, baiana, and pagode.
       The acoustic sound of the album has a charming unplugged flavor. Most of the musical accompaniment is composed of stringed instruments and a wide assortment of Brazilian and African percussion.
       Juju Duarte still lives on a Rua Dos Ossos (“The Street of Bones”), just north of the Pelourinho in Salvador da Bahia. The CD was partially recorded there and one can hear the sounds of songbirds in the backgrounds.

Lyrics, Credits, and Translations

Juju Duarte – lead vocals
Beston Barnett – all instruments except where noted below

Foi Agora Que Eu Chegei

traditional samba de roda

Foi agora que eu chegei, Dona

Dona me disse, que todavia terminado

Galinha de molho pardo, tinha ter siri catado

Xinxim de galo com farofa de dendê
Se você chega, sino santo, eu guardaba
Um pouqinho pra você
I’ve arrived just now, Dona(1)
Dona tells me , there is still some left
Chicken in brown sauce, it’s got to have fresh-caught crab
Xinxim(2) with rooster and manioc flour fried in palm oil
If you come, ring the bell, I’ll save
A little bit for you.
(1) respectful way of saying “lady”, or “lady of the house”
(2) stew made with salt, garlic, onions, oil, dried shrimp, and pumpkin seeds


written by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Vinícius de Moraes – bossa-nova
Tristeza não tem fim
Felicidade sim…
A felicidade é como a pluma
Que o vento vai levando pelo ar
Voa tão leve
Mas tem a vida breve
Precisa que haja vento sem parar.
A felicidade do pobre parece
A grande ilusão do carnaval
A gente trabalha o ano inteiro
Por um momento de sonho
Pra fazer a fantasia
De rei, ou de pirata, ou jardineira
E tudo se acabar na quarta-feira.
Tristeza não tem fim
Felicidade sim…
A felicidade é como a gota
De orvalho numa pétala de flor
Brilha tranquila
Depois de leve oscila
E cai como uma lágrima de amor.
A minha felicidade está sonhando
Nos olhos de minha namorada
É como esta noite
Passando, passando
Em busca da madrugada
Falem baixo por favor…
Pra que ela acorde alegre como o dia
Oferecendo beijos de amor.
Sadness has no end,
But happiness does…
Happiness is like a feather
That the wind carries through the air
It flies so lightly
But has a short life
It must have unending wind.
The happiness of the poor is like
the grand illusion of carnaval.
The people work the entire year
For one dream-like moment
Of pretending to be
King, or pirate, or florist
and it all ends on Tuesday(1).
Sadness has no end,
But happiness does…
Happiness is like a drop
Of dew on a flower petal
It shines tranquilly
After a light vibration
And falls like a tear of love.
My happiness is dreaming
of the eyes of my beloved
And like this night
passing, passing
In search of the dawn
Speak softly please
So that she wakes happy as the day
Offering kisses of love.
(1) a reference to Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, the day before Ash Wednesday and traditionally the last day of Carnaval

Deixa A Vida Me Levar

written by Serginho Meriti, Eri dos Cais – pagode
featuring Jason Stanyek on background vocals
Eu já passei por quase tudo nessa vida
Em matéria de guarida espero ainda a minha vez
Confesso que sou de origem pobre
Mas meu coração é nobre, foi assim que Deus me fez
E deixa a vida me levar (vida leva eu)
Deixa a vida me levar (vida leva eu)
Deixa a vida me levar(vida leva eu)
Sou feliz e agradeço por tudo que Deus me deu
Só posso levantar as mãos pro céu
Agradecer e ser fiel ao destino que Deus me deu
Se não tenho tudo que preciso
Com o que tenho vivo
De mansinho, lá vou eu
Se a coisa não sai do jeito que eu quero
Também não me desespero
O negócio é deixar rolar
E aos trancas e barrancos, lá vou eu
E sou feliz e agradeço por tudo que Deus me deu
I’ve been through just about everything in this life
When it comes to being sheltered, I’m still waiting my turn
I confess that I was raised in poverty
But my heart is noble, that’s how God made me
Let life carry me (life carries me)
I’m happy and thankful for all God gave me
I can only lift my hands to the sky
To give thanks and be faithful to the destiny God gave me
If I don’t have all I need
with what I have, I live
Smoothly, there I go.
If something doesn’t come out the way I want
I don’t despair either
The trick is to let it roll
Through the ups and downs, there I go
I’m happy and thankful for all God gave me

Le Le Le Baiana

traditional samba de roda
featuring Jason Stanyek on berimbau and Gianni Staiano on djembe
A Baiana me pega, me joga na lama
Eu não sou camarão, camarão me chama
Lê lê lê Baiana
A Baiana deu sinal
The Bahian woman hits me, throws me in the dirt
I’m not a shrimp, but shrimp is what she calls me
Le le le Bahian woman
The Bahian woman gave a sign (looked good?)
Moinho da Bahia queimou
Queimou, deixa quemar
The Mill of Bahia was burning
It’s burnt, let it burn
Trem Das Onze
written by Adoniran Barbosa – samba velho
featuring Jeff Polakow on bassoon
Não posso ficar
Nem mais um minuto com você
Sinto muito amor, mas não pode ser
Moro em Jaçanã
Se eu perder esse trem
Que sai agora às onze horas
Só amanhã de manhã
E além disso, mulher
Tem outra coisa:
Minha mãe não dorme enquanto eu não chegar
Sou filho único
Tenho minha casa prá olhar
I can’t stay
Even another minute with you
I’m full of love, but it can’t be
I live in Jaçanã(1)
If I miss the train
That leaves just now at eleven o’clock,
there’s only tomorrow morning.
And also this, woman
There’s another thing:
My mother won’t sleep until I arrive
I’m her only son
I’ve got to watch over my house
(1) Jaçanã is a neighborhood in São Paulo

Batucada De Gandhi

traditional ijexá
Aonde vai papai o jô
Vou depressa por aí
Vou fazer minha folia
Com os Filhos de Gandhi
A nossa turma é alinhada
vem pro meu bloco
Pra fazer a batucada
E mori mori ô babá
Babá kiloxê jocou
ê mori mori ô babá
Babá kiloxê jocou(1)
Wherever Papa O Jô is going
I’m going to hurry there
I’m going to make my revelry
with the Sons of Gandhi(2)
Our crew is well-dressed
Come out with my bloco
To make the drumming
(1) These are Yoruba words or imitations of Yoruba words. There are traces of Yoruba religions scattered around the Americas; in some – like the santeria in Cuba – the original language or a fusion thereof is still spoken by the priesthood, in others – like the condomble of Brazil – the meaning has been forgotten, but the sounds are still repeated in songs and prayers.
(2) The Filhos de Gandhi, or Sons of Gandhi, is the largest afro-bloco in Salvador da Bahia, about ten thousand strong. A bloco is like a team of revelers at Carnaval and other community events: the Filhos are all African-Brazilian men wearing all white, with white turbans and blue jewelry; their songs are older and use rhythms based in Afro-Brazilian religion.

O Barquinho

written by Roberto Menescal, Ronaldo Bôscoli – bossa-nova
Dia de luz, festa de sol
E um barquinho a deslizar
No macio azul do mar
Tudo é verão e o amor se faz
Num barquinho pelo mar
Que desliza sem parar
Sem intenção, nossa canção
Vai saindo desse mar e o sol
Beija o barco e luz
Dias tão azuis..
Volta do mar, desmaia o sol
E o barquinho a deslizar
É a vontade de cantar
Céu tão azul, ilhas do sul
E o barquinho, coração
Deslizando na canção
Tudo isso é paz, tudo isso traz
Uma calma de verão e então
O barquinho vai
A tardinha cai
O barquinho vai.
Day of light, festival of sun
And the little boat is gliding
In the gentle blue of the sea
All is summer and love is made
In a little boat through the sea
That glides on without end
Without meaning to, our song
Goes out from the sea and the sun
Kisses the boat with light
Days so blue…
Back to the sea, the sun faints
And the little boat, gliding,
Is the will to sing
Sky so blue, islands of the south
And the little boat, heart,
Gliding within the song
All this is peace, all this brings
A calm of summer and then
The little boat goes
The late afternoon falls
The little boat goes.


written by Ivan Lins, Ronaldo Souza – samba
ô Madalena, o meu peito percebeu
De que o mar é uma gota
Comparado aos prantos meus
Fique certa: quando o nosso amor desperta
Logo o sol se desespera
E se esconde lá na serra
Eh Madalena, o que é meu não se divide
Nem tão pouco se admite
Quem do nosso amor duvide.
Até a lua se arrisca num palpite
De que o nosso amor existe
Forte ou fraco, alegre ou triste.
Oh Ma, oh Mada, oh Madale…
O Madalena, my chest perceived
That the sea is only a drop
Compared to my tears.
Be assured: when our love shines
Then the sun despairs
And hides there in the hills.
Eh Madalena, that you’re mine can’t be divided
Not even a little is allowed.
Who would doubt our love:
Even the moon would risk a guess
That our love will exist
Strong or weak, happy or sad.


traditional samba de roda
Sai, sai, sai ô piaba
Saia da lagoa
Bota mão na cabeza
Otra na cintura
Dá remelexo no corpo
Dá umbigada na otra
Piaba, piaba
Piaba dá nada pra sambar
Out, out, out piaba(1)
Get out of the lake
Put one hand on your head
The other on your waist
Give your body a shake
Give your partner a belly-bump
Piaba, piaba
It’s easy for the piaba to samba
(1) A quick little Amazonian fish
Lá vem o homen
quem mata mulher de fome
Tome chapeu, vai embora seu homen
minha ? de aqui, só mulher
Here comes the man
that starves women to death
Com duas pimentas e de limão
Eu fiz um moqueca com dois camarão
With two peppers and some lime
I made a moqueca(2) with two shrimp
(2) A heavy stew made with palm oil


traditional samba de roda
featuring Aaron Irwin, Patrick Marion, Eric Abutin, and Gianni Staiano on African percussion
O Ignacio, O Ignacio
Mulher palida não come
Farinha do mesmo dia
Se ela come, ela morre
E os homens não se criam
Que a nega danada
é a nega Maria
trabalha de noite
só dorme de dia
se não foi seu homen, mulher não pararia
O Ignacio, O Ignacio(1)
A sickly woman shouldn’t eat
Manioc flour made that day
If she eats, she dies
And the men don’t believe her
That the suffering black woman
Is the black woman Maria
She works at night
Only sleeps in the day
If it wasn’t for her man, she’d never stop
(1) A prayer to Saint Ignatius Loyola
Se quiser me ver,
Van a Piedade amanhã
If you want to see me,
all come to Piedade(2) in the morning
(2) A neighborhood in Salvador da Bahia

Não Vou Pra Casa

written by Antonio Almeida, Roberto Robert – bossa-nova
featuring Marnie Havert on flute
Só vou pra casa quando o dia clarear
eu sou do samba pois o samba me criou
se por acaso um grande amor eu arranjar
não vou pra casa, nao vou, nao vou
Eu sou do samba rasgado
do samba bem ritmado
que deixa a gente cansado de batucar
mas se na roda de samba
eu encontrar um amor
aí, entao, não vou pra casa não, senhor, nao vou, nao vou.
I only go home when the dawn comes
I come from samba because samba raised me
If it happens I arrange some great love
I won’t go home, I won’t, I won’t
I come from samba that swings
From samba with a good rhythm
That leaves people tired from drumming
But if in the samba circle
I find a lover there
Then I won’t go home, senhor, I won’t, I won’t
Juju toca caixa de fósforos
featuring Juju Duarte on matchbox
Quem não sabe fazer samba nessa terra
Não pode cantar que era, não conhece um violão
Não passa a noite acordado numa rodinha de bamba
Quando ouve um belo samba, não sabe se é belo ou não
Brasileira quvem não faz samba em caixinha
acorda de manhazinha sem ter nada pra contar
Que até em sonho, brasileira é melódia
Não precisa de harmonía pra fazer samba e cantar
Whoever doesn’t know how to do samba in this land
Can’t sing what it is, doesn’t know the guitar,
Doesn’t stay up all night in a little bamba circle
When he hears a beautiful samba, doesn’t know if it’s beautiful or not.
The Brazilian who can’t play samba on a matchbox(1)
Wakes in the morning with nothing to tell
Because even in sleep, a Brazilian is melody
You don’t need harmony, to samba and to sing.
(1) This track begins with Juju playing a samba rhythm on a matchbox

Estrada Do Sol

written by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Dolores Duran – bossa-nova
É de manhã, vem o sol
Mas os pingos da chuva que ontem caiu
Ainda estão a brilhar
Ainda estão a dançar
Ao vento alegre que me traz esta canção
Quero que você me dê a mão
Vamos sair por aí
Sem pensar no que foi que sonhei
Que chorei, que sofri
Pois a nossa manhã
Já me fez esquecer
Me dê a mão, vamos sair pra ver o sol
It’s morning, the sun comes
But the drops of water that fell yesterday
Are still here shining
Are still here dancing
To the happy wind that brings me this song
I want you to give me your hand
Let’s go out, this way
Without thinking about what I dreamed,
What I cried, what I suffered
Because our morning
Has already made me forget
Give me your hand, let’s go out to see the sun

Juju canta de Joujoux

Joujoux, Joujoux?
Que é, meu balangandã?
Aqui estou eu, aqui estás tu
Minha Joujoux, meu balangandã
Depois, nós dois
Naquele sol de manhã
Dos braços dados, dois namorados
Você, Joujoux, meu balangandã
Joujoux, Joujoux(1)?
What is it, my balangandã(2)?
Here I am, here you are
My Joujoux, my balangandã
Afterwards, us two
In this morning sun
Arm in arm, two lovers
You, Joujoux, my balangandã
(1) Joujoux is a play name, but because it sounds like his name, Juju loved to sing this old song.
(2) A large clasp worn by Bahian women with silver or gold amulets attached.

Samba Da Minha Terra

written by Dorival Caymmi – samba velho
Samba da minha terra
Deixa a gente mole
Quando se dança
Todo mundo bole
Quem não gosta de samba
Bom sujeito não é
É ruim da cabeça
Ou doente do pé
Eu nasci com o samba
No samba me criei
E do danado do samba
Nunca me separei
The samba of my land
leaves people lazy
When they dance
Everybody catches on
Whoever doesn’t like samba
There’s something wrong with him
He’s sick in the head
Or sore in the feet
I was born with samba
In the samba, I was raised
And from those damned to samba
I will never be separated

Maria Baiana Maria

written by Benito di Paula – sambão
featuring Rafi Benjamin on background vocals
Vem da alegria
Vem da Bahia
É Maria Maria
É Maria Maria
Seu vestido rendado, florido
Vem correndo sorrindo saudar
Meu Senhor do Bonfim, que alegria
Sua filha é Maria Maria
Seu olhar presa mansa, pureza
Do Brasil, da Bahia, Maria
É baiana enfeitada de flores
Meu batuque de sorte, senhores
If it’s happiness
It comes from Bahia
It’s Maria, Maria
It’s Maria, Maria
Her clothes lace-covered, flowery
She comes running, smiling and calling
My Lord of Bomfim, what happiness
Your daughter is Maria, Maria
In her glance, she captures the mildness, the purity
Of Brazil, of Bahia. Maria
Is a Bahian woman adorned with flowers.
It’s my lucky dance, senhores

Do Fundo Do Nosso Quintal

written by Alberto Souza, Jorge Aragão – pagode
featuring Jason Stanyek on banjo-cavaquinho and background vocals
Mais um pouco e vai clarear
Nos encontraremos outra vez
Com certeza nada apagará
Esse brilho de vocês
O carinho dedicado a nós
Derramamos pela nossa voz
Cantando a alegria de não estarmos sós
Boa noite, boa noite
Pra quem se encontrou no amor
Pra quem não desencantou
Pra quem veio só sambar
Pra quem diz no pé e na palma da mão
Pra quem só sentiu saudade afinal
Obrigado do fundo do nosso quintal
In just a little while, the dawn will come
We find ourselves together again
It’s certain nothing will dampen
This warmth you all have
The good feeling shown us
Spills out through our voices
Singing the happiness of not being alone
Good night, good night
To whoever found love
To whoever wasn’t disappointed
To whoever just came to samba
To whoever spoke with their feet and the palms of their hands
To whoever only feels “saudade”(1) in the end
Thank you from the bottom of our backyard(2)
(1) “Saudade” is a famously difficult word to translate which means something like “longing” or “nostalgia”.
(2) This is a play on the name of the band that originally played this song, Fundo de Quintal, or “Bottom of the Backyard” – sort of like “thank you from the bottom of my heart”

Juju dá um bate-papo do Rio

In this amazing monologue, Juju talks about his time singing professionally in Rio de Janeiro, naming many famous musicians (listen for Ella Fitgerald and Gene Krupa) and reeling off five or six great songs he used to perform.

Curious Melodies from the Lost Travel Diaries of Sir Albus Manchild (2006)

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curious5501. Zautreg
2. Otoku
3. Port-de-la-Bonne-Mort
4. Delola City
5. Gia Mang
6. Mmabandjouma
7. Kocediq
8. Praz’k
9. Al-Tanaabanna
10. Home

Beston Barnett Quartet is:

  • “Schwee” Michael Schwartz – soprano saxophone
  • Dave Pschaida – kit drums
  • Patrick Marion – upright bass
  • Beston Barnett – acoustic guitar
To learn more about Sir Albus Manchild visit Joseph Jorken’s fansite at


NASHVILLE BARKER – “Composer’s Diaries Unearthed”

Nashville Barker: Rumors about the “last voyage” of Sir Albus Manchild have circulated among afficionados for years. Tell us about how the diaries were actually found.
Beston Barnett: They were in an old trunk in my grandmother’s attic. I have no idea how they got there: maybe her mother had been on a boat with him and their luggage got mixed up. If I had just googled his name I would have realized what they were – maybe given them to the British Library right away. Instead, I spent almost a year leafing through them, picking out bits of their melodies on my guitar.
NB: Why did you choose to unveil these 100-year old melodies in such a modern form?
BB: Well, the jazz quartet can suggest a harmonic structure without imposing it. Many of these tunes were just hints of songs, scratched down as he travelled. I try to leave the listener alone with those unvarnished melodies as much as possible…
NB: Composers from Ravel to Ellington have claimed Manchild as an influence. What would his influences have been?
BB: I think Sir Albus saw himself as sort of removed from the stream of human accomplishment. He was classically trained of course, so he would have studied Bach, Mozart… but he tried to forget them, or at least to be equally open to the other sounds around him: birds, water, singing in the street.
NB: And yet he has at times been accused of unrepentant plagiarism.
BB: There was a childlike quality Sir Albus brought to composing. I think a blend of the romantic and the aristocrat made him disdain … dissecting his own inspirations. Squabbling over royalties was for lesser music-makers.
NB: It’s even been suggested that these diaries themselves are forgeries – your attempt, perhaps, to ride on the coat-tails of Manchild’s resurgence?
BB: (laughing) It’s funny – he was such a Protean character that even his handwriting seems to change from page to page. You’d think he would be easy to fake, musically, his pieces are so different one from the next. Still, there’s an indefinable spirit there…
NB: When can we expect an appearance in Nashville?
BB: Um, I’m not sure this is the kind of thing Nashville really wants to hear right now…
NB: There’s a guitar and there’s a story. Isn’t that all Nashvillians want?
BB: I don’t know. Maybe.



ALL ABOUT JAZZ – by C. Michael Bailey

       Curious Melodies is an interesting, even prophetic recording by guitarist Beston Barnett that combines intelligent musical composition with a fun fictional narrative, making a story that doubles as its own soundtrack. The overriding theme is the discovery of compositions by the fictitious widely traveled Sir Albus Manchild, a polymathic wanderer. A narrator introduces the musical document by introducing the enigmatic Manchild. The recording recounts the travels of the Knight of the Realm and the music that inspired his composition.
       Even if you’re not interested in the subtext of the story, the music is provocative and compelling. Beston chooses a Middle East motif that’s heavily accented with Hebraic influence and instrumentation. Beston plays a Django Reinhardt-inspired gypsy guitar, fronting a bass-drums rhythm section. Michael Schwartz sports a soprano saxophone that gives the music its most potent regional flavor.
       “Zautreg” has the most densely ethnic sound, developing a theme that is mixed with other influences as the disc progresses. “Port-de-la-Bonne-Mort” adds a Caribbean patois, while “Delola City” is a Jimmie Rodgers country blues that Manchild picked up while traveling the cotton rows, transforming it, as Django stylistically did, into the complexity of “Gia Mang.”
       Each composition retains elements of the previous ones, providing a polyglot palette. This relatively small quartet has the ability to sound very large and full. It remains to be seen if the recorded marriage between music and narrative will be a marketable commodity. The music in these Curious Melodies is superbly composed and played, warranting a spin beneath the laser.
(p.s. ART HURTS Note: This is a great review, and hey what a vocabulary!, but the thesis that Sir Albus is “fictional”, though funny, is surely one this reviewer will be regretting the minute he does even the most cursory web search.)

ALL ABOUT JAZZ – by Jim Santella

       The lost travel diaries of Sir Albus Manchild had been tucked away in an old trunk in Beston Barnett’s grandmother’s attic for many years, and their discovery led to this worthwhile project: an attempt to interpret these unfinished snippets logically.
       According to the story, Sir Albus Manchild (1842-1914) was a composer who traveled to America to research the blues and other vernacular forms in the new land. This Manchild was an eccentric Victorian composer. He traveled the world and sought out music from distant lands. It’s a fairy tale that contains many hopeful wishes.
       With each selection that Barnett’s quartet interprets here, the guitarist speaks at length about Manchild in an attempt to explain it all. His modern jazz quartet interpretation of Manchild’s music (from notes in his lost diaries) explores world music in the same way that Manchild himself did a hundred years ago.
       Acoustic guitar, acoustic bass, drums and a soprano saxophone give the music an exotic flavor that travels the world through its inherent connections. “Delola City” includes an early blues texture, but most of the material comes from distant lands. Sinbad the Sailor might have experienced some of these sounds. The same would apply to travelers such as Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus. Too bad none of them carried a tape recorder or a video camera. We can only guess what they heard on their travels.
       Today, we’re fortunate in that we’re able to take miniature recording devices with us everywhere we go. The music of Ghana, Guayaquil, Guiyang, Guangzhou, Guelmim or Goiania can be captured accurately without having to translate. Still, it’s fun to interpret foreign musical forms in our own musical language. Benson (sic) Barnett’s modern jazz retrospective provides one fascinating solution.



       Sir Albus Manchild, composer, linguist, and amateur lepidopterist, was not a trained ethnomusicologist in the modern sense: the melodies he scratched in his travel diaries were impressions or pastiches, often reflecting his mood of the moment more clearly than the local musics he so avidly pursued. Nevertheless, this song appears to have been at least partially transcribed directly from its performance in one of the historically boisterous weddings of Zautreg, which, as a stranger, Manchild would have heard from the outside, sitting on a doorstep or under an open window, his notebook open on his knees.


       The Otoku melody seems to have been less an impression of the local music than an evocation of the island village’s prodigious storms, which Manchild describes as both frenzied in their destruction and stately in their imperturbable advance. Here, the frenetic bass and drums play the part of choppy waves while the sustained chord-rich melody becomes the march of black clouds against sheer coast. He writes: “The Otokuan is unafraid – in fact, he dreams of pursuing the eye of the storm and swallowing it whole.”


       The two rival funeral societies of Port-de-la-Bonne-Mort differ in one thing: where La Palme greet the death of a member with solemnity and somber ritual, Le Moineau celebrate with a joyful abandon. The dead man becomes an ally among the ancestors; Le Moineau throw him a raucous party so the ancestors can hear how beloved the newcomer was. La Palme fear that earthly delights will become sickly sweet in the mouth of the dead man when he has aged, grown powerful among the ancestors, and been forgotten by the living; they hope their subdued music will soothe him and make him merciful. In the era of Manchild’s visit, these two cults dominated the islands’ society. Beneath a melody in which he combines the moods of both, Sir Albus writes: “The dead are not deaf, but they are hard of hearing. Their ears are attuned to music that, like them, has passed beyond the pale, and they hear all living musics in the shadow of that other music.”

Delola City

       The American colonies did not agree with Sir Albus; the insects were terrible, and he feared he had forgotten his own language, so difficult was it for him to understand the native’s feral English. Nonetheless, his exploration of the tobacco- and cotton-growing regions of the South was intrepid enough that he not only discovered its nascent blues idiom, but seems to have guessed the direction it would take. What was happening on the street corners and back alleys of Delola City bore little resemblance to the blues we know today, but it contained the seed – the blue note – and Manchild divined from that what strange fruit it would grow into.

Gia Mang

       The diaries of Sir Albus brim with itineraries, amateur ethnographic sketches, romantic poetry, hand-drawn maps, and of course music, but the pages which should have been devoted to his time along the Gia Mang are strangely blank. This small mystery was made richer by the discovery of a single melody and the inscription, “whither your wings, angel,” still impressed 100 years later on the blank pages as if written hard on an earlier page. Or as if, moved by the singular beauty of a waitress approaching his table, he had frantically penned this melody and its inscription on a scrap of paper placed on top of the open notebook, and was afterwards made so disconsolate by her disdain for the indecipherable gift that he wrote nothing for weeks.
       Only conjecture of course, but every melody must mean something, must be made less torn from context. From his writings, we know that Manchild thought of music theory not in the Greek terms of ratios and intervals, nor in the almost kabbalistic number system of modern jazz, but in his own highly personal and emotional symbology. I contend that if we could understand his music theory minutely, we could hear in the recovered Gia Mang melody a desolate love poem, written on a napkin and thrust awkwardly into the hand of an improbable love.


       Sir Albus was not a sociable traveler. He prefered to see each new city sitting alone in a cafe on the plaza, exchanging a minimum of signs with the servers, even if the cafe were a mud-and-thatch hut serving redbush tea and the plaza, a dirt clearing in the center of some small African village. It is from such a vantage point that one imagines he first saw the now-vanished snake-whistle-dance performed by some children in Mmabandjouma.
       The snake-whistle itself was made from the young bush viper, a particularly poisonous and currently protected snake, which was killed and stretched out until rigor mortis set in, when finger holes could be cut out of the long stomach and a reed fixed in the jaws. Despite the otherwise solemn sight of a dozen barefoot children blowing into the mouths of snakes, the snake-whistle-dance was neither melancholy nor ecstatic. The music is simply happy because the player knows he has outlived the snake.


       All that’s left in the popular imagination of the “goat-charming” tradition around Kocediq is Marc Chagall’s famous canvas, La Chevre Volante. In the painting, a handsome buck hovers serenely over the village, its eyes closed in what one critic described as “an almost Oriental concentration.” Though he sought them out, there were no goat-charmers left by the period of Manchild’s stay in Kocediq. There WERE verses still sung at holidays which must have, at one time, formed part of the goat-charmer’s repertoire. In his diaries, Sir Albus translates a folk-song which seems to speak of a sort of spiritual connection between charmer and goat:
       my goat is no sheep: his courage is hot
       my flute is no twig: the breath is warm through its reed
       my goat is heavy, yet he floats cooly above the ground
       my thoughts are heavy, yet they are blackbirds circling somewhere a cold moon


       Even a single note can be heard from at least two perspectives: there is the note and also the silence it punctures. As notes are combined, becoming melodies, counterpoints, progressions, movements, so perspectives multiply, impressions form as the music is compared to the body of sounds the listener has already heard and also the body of sounds yet to be encountered. Visualizations multiply as well, transforming a string of notes in that infinitely divisible space between the ears into a trembling dandelion, or a caravan driven across a shallow stream, or a lover glimpsed running through dark trees.
       Referring to this rondo written in Praz’k, Manchild writes,”first there are the shapes the birds cut out of the sky, and then there are the shapes the sky cuts out of the jutting rooftops, and these shapes repeat and become one and encircle the Plaza of the 15 Mysteries.”


       Camped with a group of nomads outside the oasis city of Al-Tanaabanna, Sir Albus wrote these words of a desert flute he heard in the distance: “When I hear music like this, with one eye on the moon and one foot in the grave – its people assimilated, its purposes forgotten – I imagine how the air must be thick with all the musics that have already succumbed and been lost. I feel I am travelling through a morgue of music.”


       On June 28, 1914 – the same day that Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated and Europe plunged into its first great war – the body of Sir Albus Manchild returned home to England. He died on the open sea, probably of malaria, on the last leg of a five-year odyssey of music. It’s clear that his thoughts were occupied with homecoming: the last melody written in the diaries seems to have been an attempt to recall the famous hymn, “Abide with Me”, though after the first most recognizable notes, it deviates considerably. “Abide with Me” played daily on the bells of Manchild’s hometown church in Lower Brixham, Devonshire – indeed the tune still rings over his grave there. That he was able to forget even a note speaks to the depth of his immersion in the musics of the outer world.
       The diaries themselves, whether misplaced or pilfered, did not get off the boat in England. Their travels have continued, from ship to ship, attic to attic, and now, from museum to museum, and yet, the travels of the curious melodies they contain are only beginning.

Bolga Zohdoomah (2005)

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Bolga Zohdoomah – “friends of Bolga” – blends modern highlife and afrobeat sounds with traditional Ghanaian rhythms and melodies, many from lead singer Akayaa Atule’s home village.

1. WaarEEbada
2. Dou Nougnan
3. KiEsiEmi
4. SiEkiriE
5. NErEbala Senaala
6. Nureh
7. Jingo
8. TiEdOdO / KOsiya
9. Awawaa
10. Oleka
11. Yaayiwawah
12. BOr BOr BOr


On this CD, Bolga Zohdoomah is:
Akayaa Atule – lead vocals, talking drum
Aaron Irwin – kit drums, percussion vocals
Eric Abutin – percussion vocals
Patrick Marion – electric bass, vocals
Beston Barnett – guitars, vocals
Robin Eisenberg – B3 organ, piano

also featured on this CD:

Gianni Staiano – rhodes, mandolin
Alfred Howard – spoken word
Gabriel Sundy – baritone sax
Eddie Kisfaludy – trombone
Andrew Elstrob – trumpet


trad. arranged by Bolga Zohdoomah
Fra Fra: masculine dance

Dou Nougnan

written by K. Seydou “Alpha Blondy”
Hausa: “it’s our world”


trad. arranged by Bolga Zohdoomah
Fra Fra: “home sweet home”


trad. arranged by Bolga Zohdoomah
Fra Fra: “the king is on the mountain calling for peace”

NErEbala Senaala

trad. arranged by Bolga Zohdoomah
Fra Fra: “the people are coming”


trad. arranged by Bolga Zohdoomah
Fra Fra: “jealousy”


written by M. Olatunji
Ibo: song for the ancestors

TiEdOdO / KOsiya

trad. arranged by Bolga Zohdoomah
Fra Fra: medley


trad. arranged by Bolga Zohdoomah
Twi: song for best friends


trad. arranged by Bolga Zohdoomah
Ga: “try to always be happy”


trad. arranged by Bolga Zohdoomah
Hausa: freedom song


trad. arranged Bolga Zohdoomah, spoken word written by Alfred Howard
Ewe, Fra Fra, English: social dance

So Very Near (2004)

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sovery600Beston ’s music changes directions considerably on his fifth release of original songs, “So Very Near”. Simple acoustic productions played almost entirely alone complete songs full of melody and nostalgia. The feeling here is influenced by the folk tradition and by more modern writers like Nick Drake and Elliot Smith, but even at its most moody, the voice is still Beston’s and the lyrics contain some grain of sweetness.

1. these last promises
2. dirty code
3. a room in hell
4. list of fading dreams
5. smile song
6. my Dominican boy
7. so far gone
8. you were
9. meet me there
10. sleep song
11. singing to myself
12. digging a hole
13. god and gravity
14. philomel’s lullaby
15. was
16. so very near

Lyrics and Credits

all music performed by Beston Barnett
except kit drums played by Calvin Lakin
all songs written by Beston Barnett, except where noted

these last promises

It will be alright
I just can’t stay
It’s almost midnight
Call it a day
Write it on my door
It all must seem unrehearsed
Lying on your floor
With these last promises
We had a good time
No one can betray
How long is goodbye
Meet me halfway

dirty code

Watchin the cars come and go
We all know who’s goin home
Watchin the cars come around
I thought that I was comin down
Watchin the cars from my bed
I felt the fall inside my head
From every car passin by
Another pair of starin eyes
It was just a conspiracy
I have never been so deliriously
Free, of you, of me
Free of anything at all
It’s all just cars in a cartoon
And all the light that hits the moon
Comes from the sun, or so they say
Do you believe it?
Clever mind, where’d you go
When I needed you the most?
Down the alley, down the road
Left me writing dirty code
Rain and stars, eyes and hearts
These, our calculated arts
From every car passin by
Another pair of starin eyes

a room in hell

it can be so damn easy
I guess I fell for your smile
now it comes back to tease me
I guess I’m still in denial
you were always a lie
but you’re not gonna make me cry
so many ways you told me
so many ways to know
turn on the TV baby
this is my favorite show
it can be so damn easy
just like a carousel
the horses go round in a circle
just like a room in hell

list of fading dreams

we were so unin-
hibited last night
like two swans we danced
in the dying light
hold me down, break me
in this lonely tower
way up here I’m com-
pletely in your power
it’s alright now
it’s alright
your precious body burns
through this long and wicked night
what’s the most inti-
mate thing I could say?
as the stars trail white
feathers on the bay
that I’m lost, that I’ll
never find my way home
not until you’ve torn
me loose from my bones
it’s alright now the
morning’s stumblin in
cast your shadow my
list of fading dreams
like two swans we danced
in the dying light
we were so unin-
hibited last night

smile song

I thought that love was a playground
but now the girls have all gone home
you’d think my heart would turn to stone
but when I think of them
you know I have to smile
I’ve been around for awhile
thirty years is not so shabby
but every one that’s gone is sad
there’s not much left of what I had
there is a tongue I have lost
a language I have forgotten
with every word left unsaid
I should be angry but instead

my Dominican boy

(for Andi con puro amor)
to dance with me, if you want to be,
then machetes on the table, this bar-room is not a stable
the bachata is playing low
out across the plaza
you showed me where no one would stare
to a hidden strip of land and a blanket in the sand
but they found us anyway
naked in the water
and it’s bye, bye, bye, bye, bye
to my Dominican boy
and in my dreams, sometimes it seems
I can hear meringue drums and the sweetness of the rum
it is on my tongue again
as I whisper goodbye

so far gone

the rows of headlights
and I miss you tonight
but this road’s how we pay down our sins
the traffic is bad
everyone’s mad
I’m as tired as I’ve ever been
it’s a long way home
when you’re so far gone
it’s a long way home
I woke with you lying
your head next to mine
in a dream that could never have been
but I think of you there
and the smell of your hair
and my soul wants to fly from my skin

you were

it’s hard to hold on
to what you were
it’s hard to hold on
to what you were
you were not afraid to die
not afraid to buy the lie they sold us
and everybody loved you
everybody needed it to be true
and you, you knew everything
that I wanted to know, yes I wanted to know
and you wanted to tell
you were like my only friend
more than just a means to an end I wanted
and sometimes when you moved
sometimes like an angel flew through you
and I, I saw everything
that you wanted to show, you wanted to show
and I wanted to tell

meet me there

you know me
you know I can’t
can’t let it lie
don’t you see
nothing’s changed
nothing’s different
I can feel how it’s
going to be
we’ve been here
so many times
you say your lines
I say mine
nothing’s changed
it’s all the same
like a reused
meet me there
by the water
just some coffee
nothing more
we’ll pretend
it’s all over
while our ghosts kiss
on the shore
let it be
just this one time
that we come off
you’ll be cool
and I’ll be careful
we’ll walk these circles

sleep song

you go to bed before me
sometimes my gigs run late
I walk into the bedroom
my eyes dilate
until I hear you move
or your breathing there in bed
you could be gone, you could be dead
until I hear you move
I stand there in the dark
and try not to make a sound
you know I don’t like to wake you
but when I think of your kisses sweet as honeyed song
when I feel our lives like teardrops in a storm
I am torn

singing to myself

all these days, passing through
singing to myself
so many ways a person touches you
but you can’t touch back
no you can’t touch back
I saw a girl up on a hill
went to look for myself
saw what I saw, and I always will
now I can’t look back
no I can’t look back
I’ve got some money, let’s have some fun
forget me honey, what’s done is done
built this road, stone by stone
no one but myself
and I’ll carry this load, bone by bone
cause I can’t turn back
no I can’t turn back

digging a hole

written by Rafael Loiederman

god and gravity

(for Django)
I wanna tell you everything
I wanna make your light bulb sing
with electricity
I’m the electric company
let’s go out and dance tonight
let’s go out and pick a fight
with god and gravity
they give points for audacity
don’t forget I love you best
just because I get obsessed
with rhyme and melody
it’s all a silly game to me

philomel’s lullaby

music by Beston Barnett
words from A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
Spotted snakes with double tongue
Thorny hedgehogs, be not seen
Newts and blind-worms do no wrong
Come not near our fairy queen
Philomel, with melody
Sing in our sweet lullaby
Lula lu, lula lu, lullaby
No harm, no spell, no charm
Come our lovely lady nigh
So good-night, good-night, lullaby
Weaving spiders, come not here
Hence, you long-legged spinners, hence
Beetles black, approach not near
Worm nor snail do no offence


written by Daniel Tashian

so very near

I wish that I could hear the songs
just before I thought of them
then I would know if they were any good
but as it stands I cannot tell
they’re tainted and my friends won’t say
it’s true I might not listen if they would
from midnight until three a.m.
every night I scratch away
these little melodies I cannot hear
but I don’t care, no I don’t care
what’s the point of anything at all
and if it’s happiness, then I’m so very near
la la la…