Sunday, February 1, 2009

In review--Griot Meets Jazzman

Ablaye Cissoko + Volker Goetze

Imagine the clear tones of a jazz trumpet mingling with the shimmering notes of the West African harp, (kora) with no other distractions. While there are many West African-European or North American fusion projects, many worthwhile, this is the first time I have heard jazz trumpet along side the kora. The result of this musical marriage falls nothing short of spectacular.

I know little about jazz trumpeter Volker Goetze and Griot kora player Ablaye Cissoko since I only just heard of them a couple of weeks ago. However, I have become intimate with this recording, Sira (named after Ablaye's daughter). The trumpet playing reminds me of some of Miles Davis' work, but also Terrance Blanchard from New Orleans. The kora playing is also masterful and breathtaking as are Ablaye's vocals. The musical passages played on horn, kora or sung possess thoughtfulness and eloquence. Some of these passages also play in my thoughts a long time after the disc has stopped spinning.

I think this is one of the best West African-jazz fusion projects I have heard. It is straight forward with each musician sticking to his musical tradition and yet, exchanging integrity, beauty and a passion for music at every turn. This uncluttered recording allows the trumpet and kora to share the spotlight. And you could feel like a global citizen just listening to these two worlds meld into one.

It kind of makes you wonder what would have happened if Miles Davis had traveled to Mali or another West African nation back in the 1960s and discovered the griot tradition...

I have found this recording relaxing and balancing, as well as, inspiring.

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