Orchestra Baobab Harbourfront Centre, Toronto ON - July 10, 2003

This concert had some high expectations preceding it. Orchestra Baobab formed in 1970 as the house band of the Baobab club in Dakar. Led by guitar hero Barthelemy Attisso, they fused Cuban influences with West African pop and a dash of rock into a hypnotically swinging band whose popularity ran into the mid-'80s. Youssou N'dour's West African new wave of Mblax swept aside Baobab's more languorous groove. After a 15-year period of inactivity, their Specialist In All Styles album released late last year recreated their classic fusion of Cuba and West Africa from the '70s. The night itself was cool and damp, not the pier party that Harbourfront had hoped but a sell-out nonetheless. Baobab came out note-perfect, as one would expect of a veteran house band. From the start, interlocking guitars hit a relaxed groove and the alto and tenor sax duo played sweet riffs with uncanny precision. Attisso quickly worked his magic, spinning out highly melodic crystal clear solos, or mixing it up with incredible wah pedal technique that betrayed a love for Hendrix. The alto/tenor combo of Isso Cissokho and Thierno Koite was locked in as tight as the JB horns, and the rolling percussion quickly got the crowd to their feet, where they stayed for the balance of the show. The only potential criticism was the pace of the tunes, which seemed to contain too many peaks and valleys with tempo. However, with each tune building to a slow boil, nobody cared much; all were happy to be in the presence of master entertainers.