Djembe & Mande Music Page
(last revision 01/04/99)


MANDE-JAZZ CDS

Aloha!

Over the years I have received numerous requests to give people a glimpse into the best titles from the jazz-oriented segment of my African music collection. The 35 brief cd reviews in this series are all related in some way to the Mande cultures of West Africa, centered in Guinea, Mali, Senegal, and other nearby regions. The Mande people are the originators of what is possibly the most popular hand drum in the world today: the djembe.

Some of the recordings are pure African, others reflect a fusion between contemporary jazz artists from the West and traditional African performers. Lastly, some of the music hints at a whole new form of music.  We are hearing the first generation of American and European drumming students maturing and making their own unique music, based on their studies of both jazz and Mande forms.

These reviews are Copyright 1999 and may not be reprinted without the express permission of the author.  If you have further information or corrections about any of the recordings or artists reviewed, I'd be delighted to include your contributions in later drafts of these reviews which will be submitted to various music magazines. I'm also especially interested if you are aware of other recordings by these groups I may not know about.  Please contact Michael Wall at (808)737-3786.

LIST OF CDS REVIEWED

Argile and African Heat “Idjo”, “Koko”
Epizo Bangoura, “N'Ua”
Hamiet Bluiett, D.D. Jackson and Mor Thiam, "Join Us",  "Same Place"
The Black Notes, “Miracle in Progress”
Michael Cusson and the Wild Unit, “Michael Cusson and the Wild Unit”
Djeli Moussa Diawara, “Sobindo”
Louis Cesar Ewande, “Percussion Ensemble”, “Cano”
Herbie Hancock, Foday Musa Suso, “Jazz Africa”
Jon Hassel and Farafina, “Flash of the Spirit”
Mark Helias, “Loopin' the Cool”
Paul Horn, “Africa”
Hank Jones, Cheick-Tidane Seck and the Mandinkas, "Hank Jones Meets Cheick-Tidane Seck and the Mandinkas" 
Kakilambe, “Ancestral Callings”, “Tiki Ti Tiki”
Moussa Kanoute, “Dance of the Kora”
Gert Kilian, “Love Breeze” 
Djimo Kouyate and Mamaya African Jazz, “Goree”
Wall Matthews and Aleta Green, “The Color of Dusk”
Aka Moon (with Doudou N'Diaye Rose and ensemble) “Live at Vooruit”
David Murray,  "Fo Deuk Revenue"
Jean Luc Ponty, “Tchokola” and  “No Absolute Time”
Don Pullen and the African-Brazlian Connection “Kele Mou Bana”, “Ode to Life”
Stephan Rigert's Talking Drums, “Different Colors”, “Different Colors Vol. II”
Ryth'Miss, “Chiurai”,  “Su Propio Son”
Momo Wandel Soumah,  “Matchowe”
Vieux Diop, “Deesso”, “Via Jo”
World Saxophone Quartet and African Drums, “Metamorphosis”, “Four Now”,” Selim Sivad”
Les Zoulousains,  “Stick Together”, “News From Zoulouse”



 
TITLE:
 
Hank Jones Meets Cheick-Tidane Seck and the Mandinkas
ARTIST:
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Hank Jones - Piano
Cheick-Tidane Seck - Hammond B-3 Organ 
Kasse-Mady Diabate - Vocals
Djely Moussa Conde - Kora
Lasine Kouyate- Balaphone
Moriba Koita - N'Goni
Moussa Sissokho - Djembe, Tama
Mare Sanogo - Doum-Doum
Aly Wague - Flute
and many others
COMPANY: Verve / Gitanes Jazz Productions
NUMBER:  314 528 783 2
YEAR: 1995

In the summer of 1993, acclaimed jazz pianist Hank Jones stated that "he wanted to record an album of traditional West African music."  According to Malian co-director Cheick-Tidane Seck, Jones "studied this culture for months before playing a note, and worked especially hard on the modal aspects of the music". The arrangements are deeply steeped in the Jali musical style, with intricate, rhythmically dense yet always flowing lines. The Mandinka songs and vocals of Kasse Mady Diabate (and the numerous other fine vocalists on this recording) are every bit as wonderful as you'd expect - as are Moussa Sissokho's tasty djembe fills.  Although both Jones' piano and Seck's organ initially sounded "foreign", my ear quickly adapted and soon the fit seemed completely natural. (I haven't heard a Hammond B-3 since the Allman Brothers!) You may be quite surprised how well jazz phrasing fits into the dominant traditional setting. The partial (!) artists' list above should give you some idea of the depth of talent percolating at all levels throughout this recording.  Highly Recommended!
 
 
TITLE: Fo deuk Revue
ARTIST: David Murray
COMPANY: Justin Time  http://www.Justin-time.com
NUMBER:  94-2
YEAR: 1997

"Fo deuk" means "where do you come from" in Wolof.  David Murray and friends have crafted a diverse, yet cohesive recording, hailing from a number of "places".  Murray has been a professional saxophone player since the age of 14.  He and his band (Jamaaladeen Tacuma - bass, Darryl Burgee - drums, and Robert Irving III - piano) traveled to Dakar, Senegal in May 1996 intent on creating a fusion with West African musicians. This recording documents the results of their musical encounters with some of Dakar's best known local bands; rappers Positive Black Soul, the Dieuf Dieul Band, singer Hamet Maal (Baaba Maal's brother) and sabar master Doudou N'Diaye Rose. The lyrics throughout carry a strong message about how Murray sees his world and himself "as a person of African descent relating to people who live in Africa and about the difficulty and problems which exist for Africans all over the planet".  There is straight ahead jazz with sabar m'balax bubbling beneath; there are rap and soul tracks, and there are genre busting cuts such as "Chant Africain" featuring Doudou and a Dakar children's choir.  If you like sax and sabar, this album is for you!
 
 
TITLE: Same Space
ARTIST:

 

Hamiet Bluiett - sax, winds, poet, rap
D.D. Jackson - keyboards
Mor Thiam - djembe, vocals
COMPANY: Justin Time   http://www.Justin-time.com
NUMBER:  109-2
YEAR: 1998

 
TITLE: Join Us
ARTIST:

 

Hamiet Bluiett - sax, winds, poet, rap
D.D. Jackson - keyboards
Mor Thiam - djembe, vocals
COMPANY: Justin Time   http://www.Justin-time.com
NUMBER:  124-2
YEAR: 1999

Hamiet Bluiett of World Saxophone Quartet fame is joined by one of the first West African drummers to reside in the United States; Senegalese djembe virtuoso Mor Thiam, and pianist D.D. Jackson.  This is some live, fresh, joyful JAZZ!  No overdubs, fancy studio frills or ambient fills -just three powerhouse musicians really PLAYING together - you can almost see the grins on their faces, this music is so infectious.  Thiam's djembe work is an education in itself; never dominating the music, but always going far beyond the simple time keeping role you might expect in a small ensemble. There's an equal serving of compositions penned by each artist, so there's plenty of stylistic variety. This recording quickly brings one back to what trio jazz is all about - alternately holding the groove inside loosely structured forms, and freely expressing and exploring the edge. "...where the Mississippi river runs into the Niger river...."   Here's some authentic adventuring captured for us all to appreciate...Good news!  Since I wrote the first review above, the follow up CD "Join Us" arrived, and it's every bit as good as "Same Space"!  Recorded live to two track, I think I'll pass on a snippet of the liner notes: "Bluiett, Jackson and Thiam confer with ancestral and futuristic forces to suggest, proclaim, whisper and shout a continually vibrant mosaic. These musical expressions, at once a church sermon, a barroom joke, a lover's secret; are tales of beauty, sadness, horror, wisdom and insanity.  They are as tough as they are tender.  It is a joyful noise."
 
 
TITLE: Matchowe
ARTIST: Momo Wandel Soumah
COMPANY: Musique Du Monde (available through Allegro)
NUMBER:  92653-2
YEAR: 1991

Momo Wandel Soumah of coastal Guinea is a composer, singer and saxophone player.  Now in his 70's, Wandel's music is remarkable. Writing and singing in both Susu and Baga - with a vocal style reminiscent of Louis Armstrong - his songs speak of life in the villages in West Africa. Wandel's saxophone (shades of Coltrane, Parker and Coleman) trades off seamlessly with Mamady Mansare's beautiful flute lines, Khali Camara's balaphon and the kora of Sekou Kouyate (the former bandleader for Miriam Makeba).  Wandel sings "scat" and is matched note for note by Aboubacar "Fatouababou" Camara on djembe. These, and many of the other fine musicians on this recording, are members of the National Djoliba Ballet, or the Percussionists of Guinea. Along with the remaining instrumentation -  dunduns, krin, and bolon - the music itself is rooted in the flowing, trance-like traditional mode, occasionally departing to celebratory arrangements with strong western jazz sensibilities such as their reading of Afro Blue.. I'd be delighted to own this album just to hear his jazz rendering of Sorsonet!  Highly Recommended.
 
 
TITLE: Koko
ARTIST: Argile and African  Heat
COMPANY: Schneeball
NUMBER:  EFA 01047 CD 26
DISTRIBUTOR:
 
 

 

c/o Barbara Bucking & Dieter Weberpals    Adamstrase 35 D-90489, 
Nurnberg, Germany 
Phone:  0911/55 35 10
Fax:    0911/58 11 19

 
TITLE: Idjo
ARTIST: Argile and African  Heat
COMPANY: Schneeball
NUMBER: 3055-2
DISTRIBUTOR:
 
 

 

c/o Barbara Bucking & Dieter Weberpals    Adamstrase 35 D-90489, 
Nurnberg, Germany 
Phone:  0911/55 35 10
Fax:    0911/58 11 19

Argile was formed by flautist Dieter Weberpals who obviously has a fascination with the music of West Africa, South America, India and the Orient.  Barry Sangare from Mali provides vocals, N'goni - and his djembe playing is one the best examples I have heard of the instrument being utilized in a more "western" style band. Gert Kilian, on djembes and congas, is also a fine balaphon player. The ensemble is rounded out with Robert Hofman on guitarist/bass and Werner Treiber on traps and vibes. The music on "Koko" is a fascinating blend, with the dominant root being traditional Mandeng djembe and griot style compositions.  Within a given tune the flow can seamlessly transition from a total "roots" feeling through deep FUNK and onward into soaring flights of jazz.  There's a sense of Herbie Mann meets Mamady Keita, with all the musicians fully participating as solists in an on-going musical conversation.

On the second cd, "Idjo", the personnel of the group changes completely with the exception of Weberpals and Sangare, who remain the two dominant writers. The music made by this collective (B.B. Thompson & Beate Simpson vocals, Charles Blackledge drums and percussion, Stefan Mack guitars, Louis Gabler bass, and Ramesh Shothan Indian percussion) maintains the deep groove of the first album, but with a marked change in flavor, mostly due to the interaction between Sangare and Ramesh Shothan on tavil, ghatam and kantira. This album is perhaps the more "airplay accessible" of the two CDs as the song structures seem more tuned to western ears, although all the vocals are still in Sangare's native tongue. As on the first album, the compositions are consistently diverse, interesting and very well executed! Dieter Weberpals seems to have the knack of finding great musicians AND creating a context where they ALL shine. For an extended review of "Koko" and "Idjo".

There is also an excellent third cd; "Live in Africa and Europe featuring Sona Diabate". A number of different versions of the Argile ensemble are documented on the recording - evidently Weberpals has many more friends in his musical family! 
 
 
TITLE: Jazz Africa
ARTIST: Herbie Hancock, Foday Musa Suso
COMPANY: Verve
NUMBER:  847 145 2
YEAR: 1987

Award winning multi-keyboard player Herbie Hancock teams up with probably the most well-known Kora player in the world:  Foday Musa Suso, joined by his group "Mandingo". They are joined by Santana's Armando Perazza and a host of other great players including percussionists Aiyb Dieng from Senegal, and Adam Rudolph.  Recorded  for a live audience as part of a radio production called "Jazz Visions", the music moves freely from Jali style kora arrangements to funk-fusion. The 4 tracks range from 7 to 17 minutes in length; a clue to the fact that there's lots of jamming among the players - especially the percussionists!
 
 
TITLE: Africa
ARTIST: Paul Horn
COMPANY: Kuckuck
NUMBER:  11104-2
YEAR: 1994

This was one of my earliest discoveries of Mande music, and remains a favorite. Paul Horn plays a dominant role with alto flute and soprano saxophone, and "brings the jazz". The late Sekou "Cobra" Camara from the Ivory Coast is the other dominant force with djembe, sangban, dunun, guitar and voice. Canadians Francine Martel on djembe and Nathalie Dussault on kora round out the ensemble. (Camara, Martel and Dussault were the core of the group which later recorded as Takadja).  About half the tracks are traditional arrangements such as Kassa, Yankadi, Soli etc. The remaining tracks are likely Camara originals, as all compositions on the recording are attributed to him. Camara sings in both Malinke and Susu, and his guitar playing utilizes both kora and n'goni phrasing.  The beauty of this album is simple - if you like Paul Horn and you like Mande music you'll love it.  Paul Horn's recordings have been consistently good - and he really shines in the context of West African music!
 
 
TITLE: Loopin' the Cool
ARTIST: Mark Helias
COMPANY:
 
Enja Records  P.O. Box 19 03 33, 
D-80603 Munich, Germany
NUMBER:  enj 9049 2
YEAR: 1995

"Loopin the Cool" is a dark, atonal, deep swing, avant garde recording you'd expect to appear from the Knitting Factory.  Although it doesn't have strong African overtones, I've included "Loopin" in these reviews due to the presence of Epizo Bangoura on djembe and percussion.  Better known to many people as a balaphon player (he can been seen on Kasse Mady Diabate's video), he is also quite the accomplished djembe player as well.  Group leader Mark Helias plays bass, so most of the melody lines fall into the capable hands of Ellery Eskelin on tenor sax (shades of Coleman Hawkins) and the always tasty Regina Carter on violin.  Tom Rainer on drums and percussion fills out the group. Even though there is only one percussion dominant track, "Seventh Sign", Epizo's influence is heard and felt throughout - and is consistently effective even amidst the uncommon time signatures and mutant group breaks. Don't buy this expecting an African vibe - do expect a very hip set!
 
 
TITLE: Different Colors
ARTIST: Stephan Rigert's Talking Drums
COMPANY: TCB    http://www.tcb.ch, info@tcb.ch
NUMBER:  TCB 03032
YEAR: 1997

 
TITLE: Different Colors Vol. II
ARTIST: Stephan Rigert's Talking Drums
COMPANY: TCB    http://www.tcb.ch, info@tcb.ch
NUMBER:  TCB 03062
YEAR: 1999

Strand me on a desert island with only one Mande Jazz cd?  It would be one of these. Described as "a multivarious cultural exchange project between Mali and Switzerland", the music ranges widely from horn driven cinematic themes, back to traditional Mali songs, with every sort of jazz you can imagine in between. The musicians are all HOT and their inspired playing just keeps coming! Instrumentation on Vol. I includes n'goni, flute, drums, keyboards, trumpet, bass, sax, djembe, dununs, tama, and other percussion, with vocals.  Among the 13 musicians, there's a near equal mix of Africans and Europeans. Think Mande Big Band! Louis Cesar Ewande is featured ondjembe, but everyone has plenty of improvisational elbow room in the compositions - and the balance of chops and sparseness to make good use of the space.

Volume II maintains the large group, but with some changes in personel. The compositions are not as quite as lengthy and improvisational as Vol. 1, with more of a focus on simple song structures. Otherwise, it's another heaping serving of fine and very unique music.

I also want to be sure to mention another Stephan Rigert project: "Fusion Drum Quintet". Although not a jazz recording in the commonly used sense, this certainly would qualify as "drum jazz".  The five musicians play an extensive battery of percussion from around the world within an ever changing collage of grooves, ensemble breaks and fiery solos. Influences from every imaginable drum culture are heard, without any of Rigert's compositions ever trying to be "culturally specific".  Highly recommended to all percussionists!
 
 
TITLE: Flash of the Spirit
ARTIST: Jon Hassel and Farafina
COMPANY: Capitol / Intuition
NUMBER:  CDP 7 91186 2
YEAR: 1989

Jon Hassell is a trumpet player who utilizes electronic wizardry to process his sounds into every conceivable texture. Hassell is part of a small community of brillaiant avant garde innovators, such as Brian Eno (who is mixed this recording) and Daniel Lanois (who recorded and also mixed on this project). Hassell is joined by J.A. Deane who plays "percussion activated sounds" (drums, bass, samples, string clusters), and the entire Farafina ensemble, which at the time included Mahama Konate - balaphon, Paco Ye - djembe, Soungalo Coulibaly - flute and vocals, Tiawara Keita  - tama, Seydou Ouattara and Beh Palm - bara drums, Baba Diarra - 2nd balaphon and Souleyname Sanou on shekere. The fusion of Farafina's traditional Mande drumming with Hassell's futuristic, experimental aesthetics is nothing short of remarkable. Farafina sets up DEEP grooves and Hassell's horn soars, growls, whispers and explodes is an ever changing array of colors and themes which would make the perfect soundtrack for a trip to Saturn.  Paco Ye's djembe work is burning... but for that matter everyone else is too!  I have tried numerous times over the years to describe this recording, but never have the words to do it justice.  It's very different, it's "out there", it's like nothing you have ever heard.  Flash of the Spirit was long out of print, and has recently been re-issued.  I strongly suggest you get a copy of this now while you can.... Farafina also have three fantastic CDs of their own. "Faso Deno" and "Bolomakote" (For a review of "Faso Deno" and "Bolomakote")both feature traditional West African instrumentation and arrangements.  The newest, "Nemako", adds keyboards, e-bow guitar and acoustic and electric bass.
 
 
TITLE: N'Ua
ARTIST: Epizo Bangoura
COMPANY:
 

 

Global Groove Records, P.O. Box 169 Sutherland NSW 1499 Australia
61 2 954-1079, 954-1366 FAX   globalnet@tradesrv.com.au
NUMBER:  G0011
YEAR: 1999

Long time listeners to both traditional Mande and Mande-Jazz recordings will recognize Guinean Epizo Bangoura from his numerous sessions with other artists.  N'ua is his first effort as a leader, and what a leader he is! Performing on kora, balaphon, djembe, dununs and vocals, Epizo is joined by a host of fine Austrail-Asian musicians exploring a multitude of styles and grooves.  Any given track might flow freely from traditional Griot songs, to blues, to raging djembe/dunun arrangements, to hard bopping jazz and on to funk. I have always been impressed with Epizo's djembe playing (he was the first person I saw effectively play two djembes simultaneously), and this recording is certainly no exception.  In addition to some blistering djembe, he really shines on both bala and kora. Michael Brown's saxophone work is a tasty and consistent presence, as are Carolyn Shine's keyboards. Most of the tracks were recorded in Sydney, Australia with the exception on "N'yarabi" which was recorded in New York and features Regina Carter on violin. I just got my copy of this recording after hearing great things about it for months from friends down under.  It's an easy and immediate fit in to my Mande Jazz Top Ten - very highly recommended!
 
 
TITLE: Tchokola
ARTIST: Jean Luc Ponty
COMPANY: EPIC
NUMBER:  EK 47378
YEAR: 1991

 
TITLE: No Absolute Time
ARTIST: Jean Luc Ponty
COMPANY: Atlantic
NUMBER:  7 82500-2
YEAR: 1993

As a long time fan of jazz violinist Jean Luc Ponty, it's not suprising that "Tchokola" served as one of my earliest exposures to West African music. This album is quite a departure from Ponty's usual synthesizer driven fare. Recorded in Paris and mixed in Los Angeles, all 10 tracks are based on African rhythms and melodies. Ponty's lyrical violin lines weave in and around the densely layered contributions of singers and instrumentalists from the countries of Senegal, Cameroon and Guinea such as Guy N'Sangué (bass), Moustapha Cissé and Abdou M'Boup (percussions) and Kemo Kouyaté's delicate cora and balafon stylings. Afro-Pop Diva Angélique Kidjo even makes an early appearance on vocals.  The percussion work is always bubbling near or at the forefront (Senegalese M'Boup is featured on bougarabou, sabar, and tama with Cisse contributing djembe and dunduns), and the styles range through highlife, zouk, makossa, juju and Mande traditional.  If you like the idea of violin fused with African, you'll love this! No Absolute Time was released 2 years later with some of the same musicians from the Tchokola sessions, but has more of a western feel.  Guitarist Kevin Eubanks is featured on a couple of the tracks. Although Ponty's violin soars as beautifully as always, in my mind the overall compositions are not quite as strong as Tchokola and lack the polyrhythmic depth.
 
 
TITLE: Michael Cusson and the Wild Unit
ARTIST: Michael Cusson and the Wild Unit
COMPANY:
 
Distribution Select, 500 Rue Ste. Catherine Edt, Montreal, Canada (514) 849-6201
NUMBER:  AGCD-606
YEAR: 1992

Guitarist / composer Michel Cusson is one of those musicians whose work you've probably heard numerous times but have never known it.  His scores grace numerous films, as well as the many of the arrangements for Cirque Du Soleil.  His jazz ensemble UZEB is one of the hottest bands in Canada. Although this album is much more strongly focused in the electric-jazz/fusion genre, the inclusion of Ibrahima Gueye of Senegal on various sabar and percussion, along with Alain Labrosse, lends a African undercurrent to much of the proceedings.  Cusson is a fiery guitarist ala Dimeola, McLaughlin, etc. Many of the compositions have horn driven, funk grooves. Gueye and friends toss in occasional sabar baqs and phrasing which spice up the mix even further.  Cusson's arrangements are consistently filled with the delightful and unexpected - if you're looking for something unique, this could be the ticket.
 
TITLE: Kele Mou Bana
ARTIST:
 
Don Pullen and the African-Brazlian Connection
COMPANY: Blue Note
NUMBER:  CDP 7 98166 2
YEAR: 1991

 
TITLE: Ode to Life
ARTIST:
 
Don Pullen and the African-Brazlian Connection
COMPANY: Blue Note
NUMBER:  CDP 0 777 7 89233 2 9
YEAR: 1993

Pianist Don Pullen gathers a formidable collective of jazz musicians and Brazilian and African percussionists for some cookin' improv.  Both recordings feature the same basic line up of Carlos Ward - alto sax, Nilson Matta - bass, Guilherme Franco - timba, berimbau and percussion, and our old friend Mor Thiam on djembe, dununs and various percussion.  Pullen has long been an accomplished bandleader, and the arrangements reflect his experience in their diversity and variety. Both albums feature compositions by each of the individual band members, ranging from samba, bossa nova and tradition-based Senegalese songs and rhythms to doo-wop, swing and ballads. Although again leaning more to the jazz end of the spectrum, the percussive interplay lends a persistent and driving undercurrent to Pullen's brilliant piano phrasings and Ward's sensuous sax.  To quote from the liner notes:  "The African - Brazilian Connection's sound is exotic, and complex yet as uplifting and familiar as a fond memory, perhaps because it draws on human feelings as old as music's source."
 
 
TITLE: Metamorphosis
ARTIST: World Saxophone Quartet and African Drums
COMPANY: Elektra Nonesuch
NUMBER:  9 79258-2
YEAR: 1991

 
TITLE: Four Now
ARTIST:
 
World Saxophone Quartet Featured African Drums
COMPANY: Justin Time
NUMBER:  Just 83-2
YEAR: 1996

 
TITLE: Selim Sivad
ARTIST: World Saxophone Quartet with African Drums
COMPANY: Justin Time
NUMBER:  Justin Time
YEAR: 1998

Words which describe the recordings of the World Saxophone Quartet could include "atonal", "abstract", "deconstructed" and "avant-garde".  Most of their catalog of recordings are free jazz blowing sessions in which the  four saxophone players weave their way in and out of semi-structured compositions which devote as much time to simultaneous soloing as there is to melody and form. The three recordings above certainly retain the elements WSQ are known for, but the addition of three highly regarded African percussionists provides a whole new spin to their music. Mar Gueye, formerly of Doudou N'Diaye Rose's sabar "orchestra", African American drum elder Chief Bey, and Senegalese Mor Thiam provide an amazingly dense and varied rhythmic structure for the wild saxophone improvisations.  The music is certainly not for the weak of heart - this is some ADVENTUROUS music! The first album, "Metamorphosis", is a favorite - especially the deeply funky "Su Mama Ah Zumu" which features Mor Thiam's vocals supported by chanting interwoven with dark, mysterious sax lines. Other tracks reach other extremes - some Dixieland swing over sabar.. and other things indescribeable!  On "Four Now", the African theme gets even stronger - evidently encouraged by  the critical acclaim Metamorphosis received. Thiam, Gueye and Bey spend less time merely holding a groove for the sax players and increasing immerse themselves in the improvisational dialogue with the sax players. The spontaneous fun and playfulness of the groups' interaction is consistently present. "Selim Sivad" continues the development of the group, and the addition of trap drum powerhouse Jack DeJohnette adds yet another layer to the percussive palette.  The hand drumming on this last album again features Chief Bey, now joined by Titos Sompa of the Congo and Okyerma Assante on percussion and Kalimba. Crazy Music!
 
 
TITLE: Stick Together
ARTIST: Les Zoulousains
COMPANY:
 

 

Les Zoulousains / Gert Kilian  Mesuret de Pesques, F- 31310, Montesquieu-Volvestre
Phone (0033) 5 61 97 57 91
FAX: (0033) 5 61 90 65 08  kilianp@worlnet.fr
NUMBER:  CDP 0 777 7 89233 2 9
YEAR: 1995

 
TITLE: News From Zoulouse
ARTIST: Les Zoulousains
COMPANY:
 

 

Les Zoulousains / Gert Kilian  Mesuret de Pesques, F- 31310, Montesquieu-Volvestre
Phone (0033) 5 61 97 57 91
FAX: (0033) 5 61 90 65 08  kilianp@worlnet.fr
NUMBER:  591632
YEAR: 1997

 
TITLE: Love Breeze
ARTIST: Gert Kilian
COMPANY:
 

 

Les Zoulousains / Gert Kilian  Mesuret de Pesques, F- 31310, Montesquieu-Volvestre
Phone (0033) 5 61 97 57 91
FAX: (0033) 5 61 90 65 08  kilianp@worlnet.fr
NUMBER:  188472
YEAR: 1997

Back we go to the Mande end of the spectrum... from Germany!  Balafon and mallet man Gert Kilian is the leader on all these recordings (and was also the driving force behind two other groups; Drumpact and Orexis). There are virtually no liner notes on the first two CD's, and when I enquired about background info everything which arrived was in German, which I can't read! My guess is that Kilian and friends have been seriously studying Mande music for for quite a while based on their chops. Djembe, dununs, krin, balaphon, n'goni, tama and the like are joined by flute, saxophone, violin, derbouka and harp. Some of the tracks are Mande drum arrangements like Dununba or Kassa with original group breaks and blistering soloing, others are breezy modern jazz compositions with a strong African feel. I could listen to these recordings endlessly, and they certainly lend credence to the news that the Germans are way out in front as students of Mande music! (M. Traore and Famoudou Konate are credited with some of the arrangements). "Stick Together" and "News From Zoulouse" would make a great double CD, as the material is consistent - the only real difference is that the band has gotten 2 years tighter. My only critique is that the occasional brief flurries of rap in English on "News" seem odd delivered with a German accent!  "Love Breeze" (as the title suggests) is oriented more to the pop/jazz market, with a more contemporary lineup of keyboards/synth, bass, trap drums, vocals (again suprisingly in English!) - and plenty of percussionists! These albums are tremendous examples of the fusion of traditional Mande music with jazz. They are more than worth the effort needed to track them down!
 
 
TITLE: Goree
ARTIST: Djimo Kouyate and Mamaya African Jazz
COMPANY:
 
MAC, Inc.  P.O. Box 50042, Washington, DC 20091 tel/fax (202) 546-0610
NUMBER:  71646
YEAR: 1996

Djimo Kouyate is a jali, or oral historian, and a master musician of the 21 string kora (lute harp). Kouyate is joined on "Goree" by Amadou Kouyate on djembe, and a host of other American musicians on guitar, saxophone, bass, flute, congas, trap drums and more.  Kouyate's utilization of western instruments intentionally reflects those in the Mande traditions - the bass guitar is the bolon, lead guitars the doso nkoning, the saxophone is the bigno and of course the various drums are the drums!  The kora lends a delicate, intricate texture to the overall sound, accenting the occasional African vocals. The lyrics on Mamaya express "songs of praise, counsel, social commentary, love of life and of mankind". Kouyate's compositions skillfully blend contemporary western jazz with what can only be termed African classical music. This album is the result of a very experienced musician at the top of his art fusing his musical aesthetics to those of his host country. In addition, there's even a reggae style track which works suprising well!
 
 
TITLE: Percussion Ensemble
ARTIST: Louis Cesar Ewande
COMPANY:
 
Bleu Citron  20 Avenue de la Porte de la Villette; 75019 Paris
NUMBER:  BLC D 003
YEAR: 1988

 
TITLE: Cano
ARTIST: Louis Cesar Ewande
COMPANY:
 
Bleu Citron  20 Avenue de la Porte de la Villette; 75019 Paris
NUMBER:  BLC D 017
YEAR: 1993

Louis Cesar Ewandé, is a French percussionist born in Cameroon. He began studying percussion at the age of 14 with Tony Batchi, solist for the Ballet Kondia of the Conga, and later studied djembe with Fotigui Toure (Ballet National du Senegal), Mare Sanogo, Dembo Camara and various other teachers in Africa.  Ewande has performed with Farafina, Ray Lema, Kazuni Watanabe, Archie Shepp and is the featured soloist on many of Stephan Rigert's "Talking Drums" projects.

"Percussion Ensemble" is deeply percussion based, and features a number of West African players including Epizo Bangoura on balaphon/dununs/djemba, Mare Sanogo on djembe/dununs, Ali Wague, on dunduns and Fanta Kouyate on vocals.  Malinke flute contributes many of the melody lines.  "Cano" is actually the more jazz oriented recording, again featuring Ali Wague on flute, but now joined by balaphon, guitar, bass and synthesiser. As the majority of the musicians on both recordings are African, this music would be best described as "African Jazz".  Many traditional Mande drum arrangements (this crew loves dundunba!) are used as the basis for the compositions. I'm pretty impressed with Ewande's work, (...and very greatful to Eric M. for the biographical info!)  Both these titles are out of print - if you find a copy, grab it!
 
 
TITLE: Ancestral Callings
ARTIST: Kakilambe
COMPANY:
 
 
Extraplatte  Postfach 2, A-1094 Wien 
+43(1) 31 01 084, 43(1) 31 01 324 fax    Extraplatte_austria@compuserve.com
NUMBER:  EX 149 CD
YEAR: 1992

 
TITLE: Tiki Ti Tiki
ARTIST: Kakilambe
COMPANY:
 
 
Extraplatte  Postfach 2, A-1094 Wien 
+43(1) 31 01 084, 43(1) 31 01 324 fax    Extraplatte_austria@compuserve.com
NUMBER:  EX 303-2
YEAR: 1993

These two cds easily fall into the category I describe in the introduction to this series: "hints of a whole new form of music ...the first generation of American and European drumming students maturing and making their own unique music, based on their studies of both jazz and Mande forms."  In this case, the Austrian based ensemble Kakilambe, draws their inspiration from the Orient, Latin America and Madagascar, as well as Mande and other West Africa cultures.  Flute, saxophone, clarinet, kora, balaphon and n'goni are joined in the six or eight person ensembles by djembe, dununs and other percussion instruments of all types (including doumbek, ney, berimbau, darabuka, bendir, etc). As one might expect, some of the compositions are loosely based on traditional West African rhythms (Makrou, Adoa, Sabar, Kpanlogo, Agbadza), but there are also many compositions such as "5" which are in odd time signatures and are clearly orignal material. The music moves fluidly from slow, spacious grooves which showcase the wind instruments to blazing percussive jams full of clever group breaks. Overall, these cds present a unique music, which is new and fresh, while simultaneously feeling very familiar.  The group has been together since 1986, and the strength of their long history shows through both the tightness and intricacy of their compositions and the freedom of their improvisations.
 
 
TITLE: Chiurai
ARTIST: Ryth'Miss
COMPANY:
 
Bleu Citron  20 Avenue de la Porte de la Villette; 75019 Paris
NUMBER:  18283
YEAR: ? ?

 
TITLE: Su Propio Son
ARTIST: Ryth'Miss
COMPANY:
 
 
ASBL Percutattoo 
Rue Augustin Delorte 32, 1050 Bruxelles         32 2 646 09 11  phone   32 2 346 35 56 fax
NUMBER:  CDRM2
YEAR: 1996

In truth, these two cds are only jazz in the most distant sense of being improvisationally based fusions of many diverse ideas, but the music is just too good to leave out of this series!  I have been unable to find my original notes on this group, so I hope my memory serves me correctly... Ryth'Miss is an all women group based in Brussels. I have been told that members of this group were some of Mamady Keita's original students in Brussels, and helped begin Tam Tam Mandingue there. These cds are intensely creative and features all the hot soloing and playing you'd expect from a percussion dominant ensemble (this same group was the backing band for N'Toman Keita's bistering demo cassette Sakodougou). At the same time, there is a distinct difference in their style of arrangements, especially their beautiful use of multipart vocal harmonies for their original lyrics. In addition to the battery of drums and other percussion instruments the 5 women also include bass, flutes, and guitar (featuring Habib Koite). Yet another example of original music being produced by European students of African teachers, Ryth'Miss has a lot to offer!
 
 
TITLE: The Color of Dusk
ARTIST: Wall Matthews and Aleta Green
COMPANY:
 
Clean Cuts Inc, P.O. Box 16264, Roland Park Station, Baltimore Maryland
NUMBER:  CCD715
YEAR: 1996

This recording is absolutely not jazz. The music accompanying the songs and spoken words on this recording encompass southern blues, gentle ballads and... some of the tastiest solo djembe work you will ever hear, courtesy of Abdoul Doumbia from Mali. The lyrics are from "The Women of the Plums: Poems in the Voices of Slave Women. Be warned - the content of these works are not for the faint of heart, as they portray in aching detail the painful experience of the various characters.Vocalist Aleta Green's dramatic reading style and warm, rich voice lends great sensitivity and power to the material. Wall Matthews on guitars and multi percussion is also the co-producer (with Green) and composer. Other instrumentation includes cello (Ken Law) and dundun (Matt Young). I have included this brief review here simply because this is one of the few recordings of Abdoul Doumbia available, and his djembe work deserves much wider recognition. This is an excellent, thought provoking work. Highly recommended.
 
 
TITLE: Miracle in Progress
ARTIST: The Black Notes
COMPANY:
 
 
Music Message Records, P.O. Box 29230, Washington, D.C. 20017
blacknotes@erols.com
NUMBER:  BLC D 017
YEAR: 1993

Here's another "not really jazz" title - that's pretty challenging to categorize. The Blacknotes are "committed to exploring and spreading traditional and contemporary cultural dynamics of African/Black people through our unique blend of vocalization and instrumentation". One way to describe this recording is to think of Sweet Honey in the Rock, Mande drummers and a Soul-Funk band rolled into one. The djembe and dunun players include Kweku Akoto, Lasana and Mahiri-Fadjiba Keita (Mamady Keita's protoge and head of Tam Tam Mandingue in the USA). Over the course of many musical styles including soul, blues, R&B and more, I recognized Yankadi, Fankani and other familiar West African rhythms. The poetic vocals range from the political to spritual/inspirational musings on the African American cultural experience. In addition to extensive percussion, other instrumentation includes keyboards, guitar and bass, flute, soprano saxophone and harmonica. Deep groove, thought provoking stuff.
 
 
TITLE: Deesso
ARTIST: Vieux Diop
COMPANY: Alebrije, P.O. 3247, Hoboken, NJ 07030
NUMBER:  ALCD001
YEAR: 1993

 
TITLE: Via Jo
ARTIST: Vieux Diop
COMPANY:
 
Worldly Triloka, 306 Catron,
Santa Fe, NM 87501
NUMBER:  7209-2
YEAR: 1995

Vieux Diop is a kora player and vocalist, but neither of these recordings indicate his country of origin. Both cds closely skirt the categorization of contemporary African music, but (especially with the second CD) also have a firm foot in what could be descibed as Windham Hill jazz.  "Via Jo" features guitarist Brian Keane, a background choir, keyboards, saxophones, bass and trap drums.  The ever delightful Karamba Diabate/Dambakite on djembe appears on both albums (and gives us two more spellings of his name). Lansana Kouyate appears on balaphon and dunduns on Desso, which is the more "traditional" of the two recordings - the interplay between Diop's Kora and Kouyate's balaphon is wonderful!  The instrumentation on "Deesso" also includes tama and bougarabu. "Via Jo" is certainly the more jazz-oriented of the two, while retaining a strong African flavor. The kora lines, supported by Keane's nimble guitar phrasing, create a lilting, light feel to this cd which was quite popular in the "new age/world music circles for a while. Most of the compositions are from the traditional kora repetoire, but they are adapted to the western ear.

Two more kora/light jazz cds in a very similar vein include Moussa Kanoute's "Dance of the Kora" (joined by Alex de Grassi and many others) and "Sobindo by Djeli Moussa Diawara.  Here's the details:
 
 
TITLE: Dance of the Kora
ARTIST: Moussa Kanoute
COMPANY:
 
 
EarthBeat!  P.O. Box 1460, 
Redway, CA 95560 (800) 346-4445
mlp@igc.apc.org
NUMBER:  R2 72536
YEAR: 1996

 
TITLE: Sobindo
ARTIST: Djeli Moussa Diawara
COMPANY: Melodie
NUMBER:  66966-2
YEAR: 1994



 
TITLE: Live at Vooruit
ARTIST:
 
Aka Moon (with Doudou N'Diaye Rose and ensemble)
COMPANY:
 
Bleu Citron  20 Avenue de la Porte de la Villette; 75019 Paris
NUMBER:  C7-028
YEAR: 1997

Here's one last recording which arrived just a few days ago.  Aka Moon is a Belgian jazz trio with a number of releases under their belts.  I haven't heard any of their other cds, but their titles ("Rebirth", "Akasha", "Ganesh", and "Elohim" suggest an interest in spiritual matters. The group's stripped down instrumentation (alto sax - Fabrizio Cassol, Fender bass - Michael Hatzigeorgiou and trap drums - Stephane Galland) allows the intricate sabar work of Sabar Master Doudou N'Diaye Rose and his 8 man travelling ensemble to peek through. Aka Moon is very much a high energy, jamming/improv. band - most of the tracks in this live concert are broad structured compositions filled in with the inventions of the moment.The exception to this is the band's crisp participation in the sabar ensemble's blistering "baqs" or group phrases.  Although I wish the sabar drums had been mixed more to the fore (especially as the traps are quite loud!), there are a number of interesting passages where Rose and Galland share in a sort of "Africa meets Europe" call and response dance. Fabrizio Cassol is a wild, inspired soloist  who also carries the bulk of the melody line for the collective. My favorite tracks are the two which predominantly feature pure sabar drumming...but the high energy jazz-rock-sabar fusion certainly gets the juices flowing!

Michael Wall
(808)737-3786

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