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Yasmin Levy Mano Suave Review

Album. Released 2007.  

BBC Review

...her third album nevertheless retains a strong sense...

Martin Longley 2007

Israeli singer Levy says that she now feels a heightened sense of devotion to the ancient Ladino repertoire, but her third album nevertheless retains a strong sense of flamenco, along with a frisson of Arabic music. These Judaeo-Spanish songs are central to Levy's family life. Her father died when she was only one year old, but Yitzhak had devoted his life to the old Ladino songs, as both performer and curator of a specialised department within Israel's national radio station. Much of Yasmin's ongoing repertoire was heard during childhood, in the arms of her mother Kochaua.

Still living in her birthplace of Jerusalem, Levy is now deepening her vocal substance, invariably holding back until key expressive points, rich with melancholy and sombre stateliness. She's ably assisted by a small circle of acoustic players, contributing carefully arranged combinations of guitar, oud, qanun (zither), flutes and percussion. Production duties are handled by Radio 3's own Lucy Duran and Jerry Boys, the man who was at the controls for the Buena Vista Social Club albums, but whose career secretly stretches back to take in The Beatles and Stones.

Natacha Atlas contributes a compatibly soaring guest vocal to the title track, and there are many more surprising touches, such as when "Komo La Roza" shifts in tone with piano and kemenche (three-stringed fiddle), or "Si Veriash" begins with an unusual percussion construction, a thooming frame drum lending a sudden gyrating motion. "Mal De L'Amor" is a Catalan song that also has strange emanations arriving all the way from Mali, but via Kike Pedersen's Paraguayan harp. This might sound like a fusion too far, but all is integrated seamlessly.

Harsh zurna reed-flute and stuttering goblet-drum invigorate "Una Ora", and then the disc concludes with booming bass-skin and abraded violin, Levy singing in a beautifully mournful vocal duet with versatile reedsman Amir Shahsar.

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