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Third Life Stream

Fra Fra Sound

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Album Review

The liner notes for Third Life Stream — presumably written by leader/founder Vincent Henar — state, "If you want to label this music, call it Afro-Caribbean jazz." That's certainly a valid description; this instrumental jazz CD has been greatly influenced by African and Caribbean music, and even though Fra Fra has Latin influences as well, Third Life Stream isn't Latin jazz (meaning Afro-Cuban jazz) in the way that Poncho Sanchez and Cal Tjader are Latin jazz. However you describe this 1990 release — world jazz, Afro-Caribbean jazz, post-bop, fusion, or all of the above — Fra Fra's lack of dogma is quite refreshing. Sadly, there are many people in the jazz world who think in very dogmatic terms; the Stanley Crouch/Wynton Marsalis crowd, for example, has an extremely rigid idea of what jazz should and shouldn't be (much like a religious fundamentalist who is certain that his/her sect is the only hope for salvation and that all other faiths are offering a one-way ticket to hell). But suffocating dogma isn't part of the equation for Fra Fra, whose Third Life Stream draws on everything from fusion, post-bop, and hard bop to calypso, Brazilian music, and modern African pop. Another influence is Surinamese music, which Fra Fra explored in a vocal-oriented fashion on its 1997 release, Kaseko Revisited: Kotabra. On Third Life Stream, however, Surinamese elements are only used for instrumental purposes by Fra Fra's 1990 lineup, which includes many musicians who have since left the band. Over the years, Fra Fra has had its share of personnel changes; regardless, the outfit has always maintained a recognizable identity under Henar's direction — and Third Life Stream offers an appealing snapshot of where the group was at the dawn of the '90s.


Formed: 1980 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '00s

Although not as well known in the United States as they are in parts of Western Europe, Fra Fra Sound is a Dutch jazz institution and has been active in the Netherlands since the early '80s. Fra Fra has also recorded as the Fra Fra Big Band, which is essentially Fra Fra Sound with more musicians and an expanded, more elaborate lineup. But whether they're calling themselves Fra Fra Sound or the Fra Fra Big Band, the Amsterdam-based outfit has a reputation for being adventurous, unpredictable, and...
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Third Life Stream, Fra Fra Sound
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