It has been a few years since he emigrated to Canada, but guitarist Toto Laraque has become quite a prolific musician. Indeed, his most recent release “Dix doigts, six cordes, un seul Toto Laraque” is his fourth CD under his name, and a nice one at that.
Toto Laraque does not need any introduction. From his time with the group Ibo Lele, the Caribbean Sextet and so many other groups here and there, he has been musicians' musician, because of his versatility. In my estimation, it would be a mistake to classify him as a konpa musician or a jazz musician; he is comfortable in either style. I have the i mpression that he himself does not want to be put in a box. It is no accident that he participated in a number of jazz festivals in Montreal. By the same token, you find him supporting a number of konpa groups of all stripes.
The CD under review is a perfect example of his versatility. If Toto Laraque has one defining trait, it is that he has remained very close to his beloved konpa. You can hear how he plays it with gusto on his guitar. Listen for example to the introductory tune, “Tèt bòbèch”, or the beautiful arrangement of the Santana tune, “Samba pa ti”. The music flows effortlessly and as Toto says, he caresses his guitar with his ten fingers as he would a woman. Quite revealing! Indeed, his fingers glide on his instrument, constantly on the move, restless, while creating beautiful melodic lines. Now you hear a soft konpa beat, next, he is into a furious rara beat, never short of inspiration.
Toto's versatility is also demonstrated in tune No. 4, “Armando's Rara”. Those who follow jazz will immediately recognize this wonderful piece written by Chick Correa. Toto plays the song on a rara beat and is supported by the great Haitian pianist Eddy Prophète. His piano solos and Toto's guitar work are dazzling. Toto Laraque is as comfortable as he was playing his konpa. He transitions from one style to the other without effort. Tune No. 5 “Palenguel” is also a pretty melody played by Toto on a typical Haitian folkloric beat. Toto's guitar is a melodious as ever. Tune No.9, “Dirty Rara”, is another beautiful arrangement on a Haitian folkloric beat. There again, Toto's guitar and Eddy's piano are excellent. I should point out the very nice composition entitled “5 guitares pour Toussaint”. It showcases the talent of the guitarist and his familiarity with so many different styles. In the last tune on the CD, which is the title tune, Toto frees up his inspiration and you can better appreciate his dexterity on the guitar.
Each one of the tunes on the CD is entertaining. Toto Laraque is supported by an excellent cast of musicians, among them, his son Pascal Laraque, who does a wonderful job of arranging and programming. The mixing is very good and this CD, in my opinion, is one of the best Toto Laraque has released since moving to Canada. So if you do not have it yet, it would be a nice Christmas present to a friend.
Help fight CD Haitian CD piracy, it is bad for everyone
Serge Bellegarde, for Windows on Haiti, December 2008
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