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Ahmed Abdul-Malik was a resourceful and versatile bassist capable of fitting in with the groups of Thelonious Monk, Herbie Mann, and others. On his few recordings as a leader, he dove head first into his fascination with African music, documented on the two early '60s sessions collected here on Jazz Sounds of Africa.
Other musicians with similar aspirations, such as Coltrane, simply fused African rhythms into a jazz context. Abdul-Malik created tunes that work solely with the West African musical idiom called highlife, which fuses calypso and Latin music, and has rounded up several players on exotic instruments (he himself doubles on the oud) to complete the effect. There’s little on either session that could properly be called jazz, and there is more than a hint of National Geographic surrounding these records. Nonetheless, it’s an ambitious recording and a compelling listen.
Most of the selections on the first session and a large part of the second are pleasant tunes in the calypso vein, played by a large horn-based ensemble powered by the fleet drumming of Andrew Cyrille. On the first session Calo Scott makes a huge contribution, showing his dexterity on the cello (both as a soloist and by holding down the bottom end when Abdul-Malik switches to oud) and on the violin, bowing an eerie solo on a sparsely populated “Out of Nowhere.” The second session delves deeper into the rhythmic possibilities of African music, which quickly grows tiresome except for those with a high tolerance for long periods of drumming. Nevertheless, Jazz Sounds of Africa is a compelling work from a man best known for his work under the leadership of other people.
Track Listing: 1. Nights On Saturn 2. The Hustlers 3. Oud BLues 4. La Ibkey 5. Don't Blame Me 6. Hannibal's
Carnivals 7. Wakida Hena 8. African Bossa Nova 9. Nadusilma 10. Out of Nowhere 11.
Communication 12. Suffering.
Personnel: Ahmed Abdul-Malik-bass, oud; Calo Scott-violin, cello; Tommy Turrentine-trumpet; Eric Dixon-tenor
saxophone; Bilal Abdurrahman-clarinet, percussion, Korean reed instrument; Andrew Cyrille-drums;
Richard Williams-trumpet; Edwin Steede-alto saxophone; Taft Chandler-tenor saxophone; Rupert
Allenye-flute; Rudy Collins-drums; Montego Joe-conga, bongo; Chief Bey-African drum.
I love jazz because it’s what sounds
I was first exposed to jazz in my
parents household and in school
I appreciate many styles of jazz
and shy away from really outside
stuff. I enjoy relating to the
One of the best shows I ever
attended was 1975 Chick Corea’s
Return To Forever tour at an
intimate venue in downtown
The first jazz record I bought was
Herbie Hancock’s Chameleon.
My advice to new listeners is try
several styles before you decide
what jazz is all about!
Listen to music daily and stay open