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Tok Tok Tok: About...

Woodrow Wilkins By

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Generally speaking, acoustic drums and cymbals are the best option in music. That's because many drum programs sound like prefabricated templates that were modified to add or subtract sounds, or to adjust pitch and tempo. Because of that, a lot of songs—even those by different artists—appear to have the same rhythm tracks, clichés included. Not so with Morten Klein's mouth drums, which add a nice touch to About....

Klein and his partner, Tokunbo Akinro, cover a lot of ground on this, their fifth release. The duo shares songwriting credits. Sometimes Akinro adds lyrics to Klein's compositions; sometimes Klein sets Akinro's text to music. Akinro, a Nigerian-German singer, and Klein, a multi-instrumentalist, reached the top ten on the German jazz charts with their previous offering, It Took So Long. Their live performances have thrilled audiences through much of Europe, including the North Sea Jazz Festival at The Hague, Netherlands.

The opening track, "Breakdown, describes the real-life failure of a classic car: a Morris 1000. Akinro and Klein spent the wait trading stories, listening to the radio, and going inside the building in front of which the car broke down. Christian Flohr sets the tone with the double bass, and Klein with tenor sax and mouth drums, as Akinro sings about the experience. It's a laid-back groove that establishes the feeling of the whole album. Because Klein performs mouth drums on songs that he co-wrote, the sounds are perfect for these songs, which often isn't the case with programmed drums.

Akinro tells of her struggles with racial bigotry on the title song. In the gear-shifting rhythm of "About, she shares anecdotes about different aspects of racism: suspicion of theft, friends who are ashamed of what you are, getting lower grades despite passing the tests, and having people snub you because of skin color. "When the anger's poisoned you ... and you haven't got a clue ... how to deal with hostility ... brought on in such subtlety, Akinro sings to a backdrop of bass and tenor sax.

Klein adds the guitar to "Don't Go Away, in which Akinro pleads for a lover to give their relationship another chance. Klein's tenor also comes out front for a wailing solo. Perhaps the most upbeat—and certainly the funkiest—song is "All I Ask, in which Akinro delivers a powerful anthem of individual liberation. With Jens Gebel on Fender Rhodes and Klein again on tenor, the song is a celebration of a woman's empowerment, breaking her cycle of dependency.

The sound of Tok Tok Tok is definitely off the beaten path. Free of industry restraints and musical clichés, the group delivers an album that's suitable for almost any time of day and any mood. The lyrics cover a range of emotions, whether the subject is love, society, or life experience. And in good storytelling fashion, the car that broke down at the beginning starts back up in the end.


Track Listing: The Breakdown; About; When I

Personnel: Tokunbo Akinro: vocals; Morten Klein: tenor and soprano saxophones, mouth drums, guitar, Fender Rhodes; Christian Flohr: double bass; Jens Gebel: Fender Rhodes; Hartmut Zeller: Fender Rhodes.

Title: About... | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: BHM Productions


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