- Les Routes de L'Esclavage (The Routes of Slavery), 1444-1888, historical readings & music
Taken from a 2015 live performance, this is perhaps the most ambitious album Jordi Savall has ever released, which is saying a lot. It is nothing less than a musical history of slavery, mostly in its Latin American manifestations, but with North America not neglected. The narration is in French partly because the concert was performed in France, but also because the narrative of freedom that pointed the way toward slavery's end was, at several critical junctures, French. American listeners may be staggered to hear a 1968 speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (not "I Have a Dream") delivered in that language, but the progression from the opening text, Aristotle's assertion that humanity is divided into masters and slaves, to Dr. King's oration is powerful indeed. Even more powerful is the music. Here Savall starts with a few pieces he has recorded in the past: Spanish and Mexican Renaissance pieces that show African influence, like Mateo Flecha's "Gugurumbé." But he goes far beyond these. The Flecha work is joined to a contemporary Mexican son jarocho, and there are various Afro-Latin genres that are performed by musicians from those traditions, with Savall expertly attaching them to the program as a whole. There are Malian griot songs played on the kora by Kassé Mady Diabaté and traditional pieces from Central America and Brazil, many touching on the experience of the slave trade, but there is also a grand sweep of music showing how African and European traditions converged. The 540-page "booklet" includes, in six languages, a report on the state of the slave trade today. An often overwhelming experience, recommended in the highest possible terms. A DVD of the original concert is included. U.S. Grammy nominators picked this album in the Best Classical Compendium category, and it is that, but it is so much more.