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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 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.