Wednesday, March 6, 2013

In review--Sonoran Beats

World/Native American 
R. Carlos Nakai
Will Clipman
Awakening the Fire
Canyon Records

What happens when R. Carlos Nakai’s flowing flute weds Will Clipman’s tribal beats? In the liner notes for Awakening the Fire, this duo explores the contrasting realms of the Native American flute, a melodic instrument and structured percussion.  One instrument lives outside of time and space, while the other instruments mark time.  Here we have free flowing building a bridge with rhythmic structure and the musicians accomplish a virtually impossible fete where each instrument gives space to the other.  This could only happen with two musicians who have known and worked with each other for a long time.  This takes cooperation, compromise, and excellent listening skills, which Nakai and Clipman possess in abundance.

When combined, the exotic percussion (Clipman has a special room full of global percussion and the intuition to always choose the right drum) and Native American flute create a trancelike effect that wouldn’t work so well for a massage practice (thus the beats), but offers a space to dance or to just give a deep listen via headphones.  The CD is ideal for sound healing too.  The opener, Oasis brings together global beats with playful flute.  On Kindling the Essence, Clipman plays a berimbau giving us a Brazilian flavor. On Caldera, Nakai contributes ghostlike vocals.  Standing Stone is my favorite track featuring Clipman on udu, tambourines (or a jingling percussive instrument), and woodblocks and Nakai playing staccato.

Closing with The Fountain with water sound effects, chimes, reverberated flute (sounds like the musicians are performing in a cave) and Convergence which returns to a world beat meets the Sonoran Desert.  I waited patiently for the release and arrival of Awakening the Fire and I feel honored to review a CD by this master duo.  I highly regard both musicians and I know their passion and fire will awaken their listeners.  Take the journey.

In review--World at Your Feet

Gilad Atzmon & Orient House Ensemble
Songs for the Metropolis
World Village

The last album I reviewed by saxophonist Gilad Atzmon and his Orient House Ensemble revisited cabaret-style jazz.  However, on this round, the quartet sticks with American-style jazz which the musicians graft onto impressions of metropolises from around the globe, including the chic destinations of Paris, Manhattan, Buenos Aries, and so on.  Songs of the Metropolis opens with Paris which features a conversation between sweet piano and a soft saxophone.  The rambunctious Tel Aviv follows allowing the musicians to have a bit of fun.

The musicians tone it down for a sulky visit to Buenos Aries and the saxophone appears to shed tears.  Here we imagine unrequited love, tango dancers abandoned, alone on the dance floor.  We could expect the late tango master Astor Piazzolla to show up with his bandoneon.  And although this track drips with exquisite perspiration, the musicians don’t break into a tango.  On the other hand, Vienna features a glockenspiel and sends us waltzing across the floor.  I expected them to break into an improvisation of My Favorite Things, ala John Coltrane.  However, on Scarborough the musicians treat us to strains of the famous folk tune Simon and Garfunkle made famous.  Rounding off the cities, we musically travel to Manhattan, Moscow, Berlin, and somewhere in Italy.  What fun!