Fatoumata Diawara Nourse Theater Mali Fest San Francisco, CA April 18, 2014 A buzz was in the air among those assembled at San Francisco's Nourse Theater for the first night of Mali Fest, a set of two concerts which featured two distinct acts. This initial evening headlined the multitalented singer, songwriter, musician and actress Fatoumata Diawara. Born in the Ivory Coast but raised in Mali (where her family belongs to the royal caste), Diawara plays guitar, sings, acts in films and resides in France. A vocalist who has toured with the legendary Malian singer ...read more
Japan and South Africa were never so close. The acclaimed pianist and flautist Abdullah Ibrahim fused the Asian zen calmness with stories and inspiration from his native homeland in his latest album Mukashi. Mukashi translates in Japanese as Once upon a time" is a very appropriate title considering Ibrahim's impressive storytelling skills, as well as the visual evocations of the record. Krotoa" is one of the most interesting tracks of the album and it is split in three. Krotoa is the name of a 17th Century Cape Town young girl from the tribe of the Khoikhoi ...read more
Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett are widely thought to have represented ECM Records' initial solo piano forays with Piano Improvisations, Vol. 1 & 2 (1971/1972) and Facing You (1972), respectively, but a lesser-known recording from 1969, unreleased until 1973 on ECM's sister label, JAPO, could be considered its true first. Originally released under Dollar Brand's birth surname as the South African pianist had yet to convert to Islam and become Abdullah Ibrahim, African Piano's reissue as part of ECM's Re:solutions series is now attributed to Ibrahim on the cover, though the liner notes inside remain--somewhat confusingly for those not in ...read more
Meet Landry:Landry moved to northern California in 2013 and recorded his first album, The Bayou--a musical marriage between American Jazz and African Soul. The album is a collection of songs that explore themes of triumph and sorrow. The vocal delivery is vulnerable and emotional. The emotion was inspired by years of inner struggles living in the closet as a gay man. Landry chose The Bayou experience as a gateway to finally be authentic with himself and the rest of the world. Inspired by the peace he found while recording the album, Landry went on to dedicate The Bayou ...read more
Hugh Masekela and Larry WillisMusical Instrument MuseumPhoenix, AZJune 18, 2013A duo concert by flugelhorn master Hugh Masekela and pianist Larry Willis was billed as a salute to The Great American Songbook, but the performance offered as much storytelling as music. Masekela's endearing persona emerged as he related jazz history and his own life path, eliciting gentle laughter from the audience, many of whom may have known of him only from his 1960s pop-jazz hits Up, Up and Away" and Grazing in the Grass."The 74-year-old South African and the 70-year-old American had met as ...read more
Bassekou Kouyate / Tamikrest / Sidi ToureBarbicanLondonJanuary 26, 2013Ten days earlier, the vibe at this Malian package show--billed as Sahara Soul--would likely have been jumpy rather than joyful. The northern half of Mali seemed secure in the hands of Islamist invaders, who were intent on destroying the region's indigenous music and culture and poised to move south and take the Malian capital, Bamako.But, on January 26, 2013, the mood onstage at the Barbican was unmistakably celebratory. Following intervention by the French military, the Islamists had been driven north and a combined French and ...read more
Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni BaJama KoOut/Here2013Malian ngoni player Bassekou Kouyate and his band, Ngoni Ba's third album continues the increasingly outward-looking trajectory of its predecessors. The debut, the lovely Segu Blue (Out/Here, 2007), was unadorned roots music. Its follow-up, the more visceral I Speak Fula (Out/Here, 2010), wove amplification into what was still basically an acoustic sound and, on two tracks, featured Vieux Farka Toure, son of Ali Farka Toure, on electric guitar. On Jama Ko--as with his performances as part of the travelling package show Africa Express--Kouyate has taken the process ...read more
In March, 2012, a military coup overthrew the government in the western African nation of Mali, disrupting life for the civilian population--repetitively the victims in such situations of political turmoil. Guitarist Leni Stern was living in Mali at the time of the coup, and though she could have departed the country, she decided to stay and record Smoke, No Fire amidst chaotic circumstances in the capital city of Bamako.This record is the stark counterpart to her production of Sabani (Self Produced) from earlier in the year, which she recalls as a happy album" done in better times. There ...read more
[ Editor's Note: This 2005 article was reprinted in memory of Byard Lancaster who died on August 23, 2012. ] From A Love Supreme to The Sex Machine" is reedman Byard Lancaster's personal aesthetic mantra, something that recalls the theme of the Charles Moffett tune Avant-garde Got Soul Too." Free jazz and creative improvisation historically have not often been viewed as the music of the people, but the idea behind the term 'avant-garde' is that it is a paving of the way by a few forces for a large wave of cultural and aesthetic change ...read more
At the age of 72, South African vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Hugh Masekela is still making music with as much energy and passion as he did in the days of Grazin' in the Grass" at the height of his international fame in the 1960s and 1970s. Historically, Masekela has used his music as a form of social and political activism to combat issues like Apartheid. Jabulani strays from this trend of defiance and instead focuses on the joys and drawbacks of marriage, a highly ritualized and ceremonial institution in the South African village where Masekela was born.Masekela surrounds himself ...read more
Meet Jan Wouter Oostenrijk: Virtuoso Dutch guitarist Jan Wouter Oostenrijk completed his professional jazz guitar studies at the Conservatory of Amsterdam in 1995. He was part of successful Moroccan Rai formations. After this period he developed his own crossovers, where he combines North African music culture with his own roots. His music possesses energetic and strong roots-oriented rhythms and melodic improvisations on guitar that moves from bebop lines to screaming blues and Rock and Oriental Maqama"-like playing.He has released Open Up Your Eyes (2000), MaghrebJazz Guitar (2007), Sharqi Blues (2012)Instrument(s): Guitar.read more
The West African country of Mali is positively identified as a primordial source of the stringed instrumentation of American popular music rooted in blues and jazz. Renowned guitarist Leni Stern first sought out Mali's rich musical culture years back, and now comes full circle with the release of Sabani--composed, performed, and recorded entirely on African soil.Though Stern has been leaning towards a strong African influence since releasing Africa (Self Produced, 2007), she states that Sabani is the result of her total integration into a Malian musical society which she now considers family. Recorded in Salif Keita's studio in ...read more
Jeremy Noller's debut as a leader makes a broad case for his international brand of jazz. Music Notes assembles a variety of musical strains, including American jazz, West-African rhythms, and even folk music, blending them all seamlessly. With eight original compositions, Noller proves his value as a composer as well as a drummer. The first notable element is the inclusion of the acoustic guitar, ably manned by Jesse Lewis. The natural resonance of the steel strings and wooden body reinforces the earthiness of the instrumental mix. We Go" is strummed, reminiscent of Pat Metheny's 80/81 (ECM, 1981), and ...read more
What do Illinois and West Africa have in common? More than is apparent, at first glance. Originally from Libertyville, Illinois, drummer Jeremy Noller has studied with the great saxophonist Bunky Green, traveled and performed abroad, and gigged in New York since 2003. An educator whose influences include Wayne Shorter, Noller is also a student of the traditional drumming music of Guinea, West Africa. These experiences inform Music Notes , a worthwhile excursion into music with ebullient rhythms and heartwarming melodies. The nine pieces interweave folkloric melodies and popular music with the fragrance of performers such Angélique Kidjo ...read more
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