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Bassist Richard Bona Celebrates His Mandekan Cubano Recording Debut at His Club Bonafide

Bassist/vocalist Richard Bona, born and raised in Cameroon, arrived in New York in the mid-’90s and wowed crowds with his unique sound and presence. Some even outrageously hinted that Bona was the second coming of Jaco Pastorius. But even though he recorded with the Jaco Pastorius Big Band project, he soon rebuffed the comparisons and showed his own true voice with his impressive Scenes From My Life debut album in 1999. The year earlier he was enlisted to be the musical director for Harry Belafonte’s European tour and in 2002 toured the world as a member of the Pat Metheny Group. Based in New York, because Bona expressed disappointment in the club scene in NYC (from minuscule pay to the lack of long engagements than just one-offs), last year he decided to take control by opening his own space Club Bonafide (nice pun) on the historic jazz row: 52nd Street. “We’ll make it happen,” he buoyantly told ZEAL on the eve of the grand opening. And as it approaches its first anniversary, it certainly has. (For an exclusive story/interview with Bona that I wrote in a Jazz Notes column in September, go here: He returns to his home base with his spirited Afro-Cuban group Mandekan Cubano that melds together a variety of roots music, from Africa, South America and of course Cuba. Bona’s six-piece band includes two percussionists so count on his celebration of their spirited new album, Heritage, to polyrhythmically ripple and soar.—Dan Ouellette