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It's disconcerting to think that Barthelemy Attisso, the lead guitarist and principal arranger of Senegal's greatest musical export, had a moment of doubt before he agreed to participate in the band's reunion in 2001. Apparently, when he first picked up his instrument again (after a 15-year gap in which he built up a successful career as a lawyer), his fingers simply wouldn't do what he wanted them to.
But fortunately for us he persevered, and, on the evidence of Sunday night's performance at the Jazz Cafe, he has matured into one of the world's greatest lead guitarists. Not because he delivers a hundred notes per second or makes your ears bleed, but because no guitarist, since Les Paul himself, has played this instrument with quite that subtlety, controlled passion and unaffected versatility. But it needs to be said that without the sublime ten-piece band in which he made his name, he might still be behind a desk in Togo.
The Senegalese legends mean business. Dressed in subtly co- ordinated suits, shirts and ties, they open with the low-key Cuban shuffle of "Surukun", before taking a daring side-step into the dub reggae waltz of "Jiin ma jiin ma", in which Attisso unleashes some subtly wah-wahed lead bursts. …