Home » Jazz Articles » Album Review » Richard Crandell: Mbira Magic

395

Richard Crandell: Mbira Magic

By

Sign in to view read count
Richard Crandell: Mbira Magic
The mbira, or thumb piano, is the classic instrument of Zimbabwe. It consists of approximately 20 to 24 flattened metal prongs which are fastened at one end to a wooden resonator body and has a chiming, cyclical sound. Many jazz musicians have explored the possibilities of the mbira, from bassist William Parker to Israeli saxophonist Assif Tsahar and multi-instrumentalist Peck Allmond, but nobody had turned the mbira into their main instrument like self-taught West Coast musician Richard Crandell.

Crandell, 62, released several albums of his original music for guitar in the eighties, has played with fingerstyle guitar masters such as John Fahey and Leo Kottke, and learned mbira tuning from Zimbabwean Ngoni Makombe, a mbira player in Thomas Mapfumo's band, to whom he dedicated this disc. In the liner notes he chooses to emhpasize that he shares his birthday with Eric Clapton, Celine Dion, Norah Jones, and Vincent Van Gogh, curiously enough.

On his first Tzadik disc, Mbira Magic, Crandell explores his modified mbira as an instrument that fits beautifully within the sound worlds of minimalist composers like Terry Riley and Phillip Glass. He uses the multitracked instrument for improvised tapestries on constantly repeated phrases, without any real linear progression of the tunes, as on the opening track "Eleven"; and composes childlike melodies, like the one on "Message from Mozart" and the closing track "Bolivian Lullaby." But the most captivating tracks are the three collaborations with percussionist Cyro Baptista, who accompanies Crandell in a restrained manner. Baptista supplies a propulsive rhythm to "Steelhead," adds gentle resonating bells to the hymn-like "Bells," and plays hand percussion on "The Island," a fascinating improvisation on a chord progression.

Mbira Magic offers a fresh reflection on the great tradition of this ancient and simple instrument, but also on its endless possibilities in the hands of a mature musician like Crandell.

Track Listing

Eleven; Steelhead; Double Dose; Message From Mozart; The Island; Bells; Abstraction #1; Bolivian Lullaby

Personnel

Richard Crandell- mbira; Cyro Baptista- Percussion (tracks 2, 5 and 6)

Album information

Title: Mbira Magic | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Tzadik


< Previous
At the Center

Next >
Vida

Comments

Tags


For the Love of Jazz
Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

You Can Help
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.

More

Where Did You Go?
Sandman Project
Traumsequenz
Moritz Stahl
The Cold Arrow
Gregorio / Smith / Bryerton
Mosaic
Nicole McCabe

Popular

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.