by Robert Reid
Loreena McKennitt is an enormous talent. However, anyone who has followed her rise to international stardom cannot ignore the contributions of the Celtic performer’s gifted back-up musicians, who are accomplished recording artists in their own right. Recent months have seen three of them — violinist Hugh Marsh, guitarist Brian Hughs and percussionist Rick Lazar — release excellent albums. Touch is Lazar’s second album with the six-member Montuno Police, following the release of Bang in 1990. Joining Lazar are Collin Barrett on bass, Lester Boyke on percussion and John Johnson on woodwinds, in addition to Sheard, Kelso and Marsh. The 13 tracks, composed for the most part by various band members and arranged and produced by the band, also feature a number of musicians playing traditional instruments. Combining jazz improvisations and rap with the rhythmic influences of Afro-Cuban, Brazilian and Arabic music, Touch offersa rich blend of percussion-driven worldbeat syncopations that are as infectious as they are funky. The motto for Montuno Police is “one heart, one mind, one groove.” The music couldn’t be described more accurately.