Scenes From My Life, by Richard Bona
Suggested by Stuart Taylor
Must… resist… obvious… joke…
Today, I’m reviewing a jazz-pop album from the apparent legendary Cameroon-born bassist-singer Richard Bona. The album in question, Scenes From My Life, was released in 1999, as his debut release from an eight-album career.
The phrase Jazz-Pop makes me immediately think of lounge bar music, a mellifluous background sound that’s there to underscore a cocktail and a chicken dinner. It makes me think of music that you hear, but not listen to.
Having listened to the album, I can attest that it’s… exactly as I expected.
Maybe that’s a little reductive. I can admit there’s a little more than a flour-and-water paste. By far the most interesting aspect is the African roots, which threads through all the tracks and informs everything from the song structure to the instrumentation, to the lyrics to the song titles. There’s the opening track Dipita, with it’s piano chic and swing drums. There’s Souwedi Na Wengue, with its mild bongo flirtation and moody Claptonesque guitar solo. There’s my standout Djombwe, with its funky slapping sitcom Seinfeld bassline and gentle jazz brass. There’s Na Mala Nde, with its circular guitars and brushing cymbals. And there’s Messanga, the most bongo-heavy and traditional African choral sound, and honestly the one song that brings something different to the buffet bar.
It’s lovely stuff, I guess. Richard Bona has a gentle voice that’s high and twittering. He sings in non-English languages, which adds a level of coolness and mystique to the album but also heightens the disconnect and reduces the immediacy, presenting yet another opportunity to simply block this out and let it fade from the foreground. I think that this is likely a wonderful album for people who’ve a wholly different approach to music than mine, but at this stage of the project I’m looking for something that’ll grab my hand and run, rather than stroke my hair and let me drift to sleep.
I’m sorry, I’ve got to say something.
The guy’s called Dick Boner.
Yes, that is how it’s pronounced. I checked. But it’s not even his actual name! His real name is Bona Pinder Yayumayalolo. So at some point, he thought “even though my actual name is absolutely kick-ass, I need a stage name. A stage name that’s bland and inoffensive, like my music, but also a stage name that makes me sound like a dime-store Eighties porn star. Sexton Hardcastle? Too much. Mike Oxlarge? Getting better. Dick Boner? Close, but still a touch too colourful… Richard Bona? Bosh! Nailed it. Nathaniel, pass me my smoothest bass. I’ve got oatmeal jazz to improvise!”
But enough of this nonsense. I’ve downed my martini, and finished my coq au vin. It’s time to pay my bill and leave.
I rate Scenes From My Life at 6/10. It was smooth, and beautiful, and unobtrusive, and boring.