Review by Gillian Daniels
(Somerville) Lo’Jo is the sort of low-key, warmly contemporary act that suits Johnny D’s perfectly. It’s jazzy, it has a an adult pop vibe, and it fits right in with the swinging glamour of the Davis Square bar. World Music CRASHarts has again brought to Boston a band that blends old world, European charm and a thoroughly contemporary, “citizens of the world” groove. Denis Péan, lead singer and keyboardist, founded the group with Richard Bourreau (who plays both kora and violin) in Angers, France. Péan’s rough-hewn voice is a delicious counterpoint to the gentler warbling of Yamina and Nadia Nid el Mourid, sisters with an eye on West African traditions. They are rounded out by members Kham Meslien and Baptiste Brondy.
Lo’Jo claims their influences are “pop, reggae, circus, cabaret, klezmer, Roma, and Maghrebian,” influences they were on their sleeves. There’s more than a little of the throaty, coal-mine voice of Tom Waits thrown in, too, and the synthesized result is somehow both eclectic and subdued.
Just because Lo’Jo’s sound is a relaxed one doesn’t mean they don’t have the funk to back up their reputation. In thirty years of performing, the French band’s fans and collaborators include Robert Plant, Menwar, Robert Wyatt, Niaz Diasamidze, and Vincent Segal. With time, they have developed a polished vigor. Their music, when I saw them, filled Johnny D’s like a heady but familiar cocktail.
Yes, their combinations are non-traditional and bewildering, not to mention enormously fun and a bit weird, but they have settled into a thoroughly well worn style. It’s a reliable style of playing, but less “adventurous” and more “tried and true.”
Lo’Jo is confident in what it is and what it does. It has nothing to prove. Either you’re there to listen to their proud cabaret-infused, West African jazz or you accidentally wandered in while looking for a nice place to drink on a Friday night.
The band’s thirteenth album, Cinema El Mundo, was released in 2012. Their other credits include helping to organize the first Festival in the Desert in 2001 over in the southern Sahara which subsequently launched the career of Tinariwen.