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After playing on World Saxophone Quartet records and in Bluiett/Jackson/Thiam, Senegalese percussionist Mor Thiam steps out on his own on Back To Africa, recorded in late '98 in Dakar, Senegal. On this record, he demonstrates his remarkable ability to pull together a huge list of West African players and get a coherent record out of the affair. Roughly half of the pieces consist of stark drumming; the other half breeze through uplifting Afro-pop.
While the combination may seem incongruous, it's easy to see the continuum when you reflect upon the central role the drums play in every setting. Thiam's explanation (not necessarily obvious to the casual listener): "I'm soloing on most of the tunes." But he's not alone: he's assembled some of the top players of Senegal and West Africa. Back to Africa presents a wonderful companion recording to the two BJT issues on Justin Timedelving into the roots of the Senegalese musical tradition without losing track of the present.
Track Listing: Worosodon; Yaral Sa Doom; Doudou N'Diaye Rose; Xamleen Xamme; Djembe; Modou Modou; Tassu; Sangara; Daan Sa Doole, Meeting in Dakar--Pancum Ndakaru.
Personnel: Mor Thiam: lead vocal, djembe, sabar; Cheikh Tidiane Tall: musical director, arranger, keyboards, guitars; N'Diaye Samb Mboup: vocals, lead vocal on "Daan Sa Doole"; Fatou Talla N'Diaye: vocals, lead vocal on "Xamleen Xamme"; Mbaye Dieye Faye: lamb, sabar, djembe; Baboulaye Sissokho: kora; D.D. Jackson: keyboards; Papa Samb Sour: drums; Lamine Diallo: djembe; Yamar Thiam: tama, tassu, Senegalese rap; Mamane Thiam: tama; Doudou N'Diaye Rose: lamb, thiol, nder; Thierno Koite: tenor saxophone; Abdoul Aziz: sabar, talmbatt.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.