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Gino Sitson in Prague

Jazz vocalist returns for first local show in ten years

Posted: April 13, 2011

By Tony Ozuna - For the Post | Comments (0) | Post comment

Gino Sitson in Prague

Courtesy Photo

Sitson weaves blues, gospel and African rhythms.

Vocalist-extraordinaire, composer and arranger Gino Sitson comes to Prague with his distinctive sound for one night at Jazztime, a respectable return to the city after a disastrous show almost a decade ago.

On Sitson's previous visit to Prague, his performance was called off at the last minute due to technical problems at the venue. The show's promoter, forced to find a different venue in a rush, decided to hold the concert in a cinema, and the screening room of Kino Atlas became a makeshift performance hall. Sitson and his band played an impressive set, but the unprofessional sound system, unusual stage arrangement and poor acoustics of the room, combined with poor ventilation on a hot summer night, made it hard work for the band, who seemed to be sweating as if they were in a furnace, or in hell. Surprisingly, Sitson's memory of that night is not all negative, he tells The Prague Post.

"Yes, I do remember that one," he says. "We had a really nice time. It wasn't the first time I was performing in Prague. It was maybe the second or third time."

This time around, Sitson and his quartet can rest assured that the venue will be cooler, and the sound-system above-average. These elements are essential to appreciate the way Sitson intricately weaves jazz, blues, gospel and traditional African polyphonic rhythms and melodies.

Gino Sitson Quartet
When: Thursday, April 14, at 9
Where: Jazztime
350 Kc, available at the venue

Raised in Paris and currently based in New York City, Sitson is originally from the Bamileke region of Cameroon, Central Africa. Most of his lyrics are written in Medumba, one of the numerous languages of West Cameroon. Like Bobby McFerrin, Sitson often uses lyrics as springboards for sound explorations or voice acrobatics; it is not necessary to understand the lyrics to appreciate the beauty and meaning of Sitson's songs as he sings them in his four-octave voice. Practically all of his songs are a soothing, engaging journey, but they are also exceptionally playful, like children's rhymes.

McFerrin is, of course, the master of this type of music, and he and Sitson are friends, as was evidenced last year, when McFerrin invited Sitson to perform with him at Carnegie Hall for New Year's Eve. McFerrin is unmatched, but Sitson has carved out a style of his own, making any comparison unfair. But Sitson is forthright about his appreciation of the American singer.

"We're both different. Maybe there could be some similarities, but my phrasing and writing are pretty different," Sitson says. "I've been fortunate to work with that amazing vocalist/musician, a very nice human being, too."

One obvious difference between Sitson and McFerrin is that the latter performs in massive halls for exorbitant prices and sells out shows months in advance. Sitson, however, is found in intimate venues for a fraction of the price.

Sitson's debut album, Vocal Deleria, was released in 1995. His next album, Song Zin' (I Want to Tell You) was released in 2002, and it was selected as one of the Top Ten Jazz CDs of the year by The Los Angeles Times. His 2005 release, Bamisphere, featured the jazz legends Ron Carter and Jeff "Tain" Watts.

Way to Go, the singer's latest release, features Sitson on vocals, sanza (a traditional African thumb piano), percussion and body percussion; his voice is the primary instrument of the group, while as a percussionist, he either uses a small African drum or more handily, his thighs for thumping.

For his upcoming concert, Sitson will be joined by the double bassist Lonnie Plaxico, who is also a key contributor on Way to Go, as well as Carinne Bonnefoy on piano and Denis Tchangou on drums. Perhaps the next time Sitson visits Prague, it could be with the diva of Czech avant-garde vocalists.

"I'm a big fan of Iva Bittová," he says. "Maybe we'll do something together soon. ... Anyway, I hope so."

Tony Ozuna can be reached at

Tags: gino sitson, jazz concerts, jazz gigs, prague, prague gigs, music news, live music, czech republic, jazz time.

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