Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng: Afrijazz (2003)
African music is distinctive for its purposeful social nature with many songs ritually related to both everyday and eventful aspects of life. On Afrijazz Obeng offers percussion pieces incorporating hand and stick drums; a variety of bells, shakers, and rattles; and a vibrant voice on tracks such as “Greetings,” “Message,” “Worship,” and “Thank You,” which are associated with common acts of humanity. On “Kids-Konko-da,” a striking modern high life outing, KKO performs on oprenten drums (the instrument he plays solo on “Oprenten #6”), with a sextet comprised of Paul Austerlitz (bass clarinet), Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet and flugelhorn), Bill Lowe (trombone), Dominic Kanza (guitar) and Wes Brown (bass), to instrumentally tell the story of a day at an African marketplace – sounding surprisingly similar to the Art Ensemble of Chicago.
Austerlitz is also heard on a Dolphy-esque duet with Obeng’s talking drum in a haunting rendition of Thelonious Monk’s “‘Round Midnight.” Jay Hoggard plays xylophone for a duet with KKO on “Ghana Gumbo,” a polyphonous piece featuring the popular Ewe drumming styles that have influenced much of modern minimalist music.
Two extremely likable numbers with vocal chorus will probably be the album’s most popular songs for many. The funky “Akampa,” featuring a call and response dialogue between Obeng and Rani Arbo, is traditional harvest music from the upper region of Ghana, utilizing a rhythmic pattern familiar to many from Manu Dibango’s pop hit “Soul Makossa.” “Fine Fine Baby,” with a lyric based on an African proverb, has the fun and feel of a college fraternity chant. The repetition of the ironically respectful refrain, “Fine fine baby, Fine as your mother... Your mother... Your mother," is likely to appeal to both the young and old.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York .
Track Listing: 1. Greetings (Obeng) - 1:50 2. Oprenten #6 (Obeng) - 5:04 3. Message (Obeng) - 4:12 4. Kid's - Konko - Da (Obeng) - 9:42 5. Akampa (Obeng) - 4:52 6. 'Round Midnight (Monk) - 5:19 7. Ghana Gumbo (Obeng) - 7:43 8. Fine Fine Baby (Obeng) - 5:15 9. Worship (Obeng) - 6:10 10. Thank You (Obeng) - 7:40
Personnel: Jay Hoggard - Vocals, Xylophone; Mike Veal - Drums; Paul Austerlitz - Bass Clarinet, Claves, Axatse; Rani Arbo - Vocals; Dominic Kanza - Guitar; Scott Kessel - Vocals; Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng - Conga, Drums, Vocals, Claves, Calabash, Iya, Cowbell, Wood Block, Gankogui, Udu, Donno, Kagan, Oprenten; Taylor Ho Bynum - Trumpet, Cornet, Flugelhorn.
Record Label: Innova Recordings