All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

395

Richard Crandell: Mbira Magic

Eyal Hareuveni By

Sign in to view read count
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)

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

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Making Other Arrangements CD/LP/Track Review
Making Other Arrangements
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 25, 2018
Read Charlie & Paul CD/LP/Track Review
Charlie & Paul
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 25, 2018
Read Sunlight CD/LP/Track Review
Sunlight
by Jeff Winbush
Published: April 25, 2018
Read Fullmoon CD/LP/Track Review
Fullmoon
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 25, 2018
Read Fullmoon CD/LP/Track Review
Fullmoon
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 24, 2018
Read Arise! CD/LP/Track Review
Arise!
by Chris May
Published: April 24, 2018
Read "Another Place, Another Time" CD/LP/Track Review Another Place, Another Time
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: June 18, 2017
Read "Secret Language" CD/LP/Track Review Secret Language
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: November 17, 2017
Read "The Wandering Woods" CD/LP/Track Review The Wandering Woods
by Jim Olin
Published: October 9, 2017
Read "Western Edges" CD/LP/Track Review Western Edges
by John Sharpe
Published: July 2, 2017
Read "J.I.G.E.N" CD/LP/Track Review J.I.G.E.N
by Mark Sullivan
Published: July 5, 2017
Read "An Angel Fell" CD/LP/Track Review An Angel Fell
by Chris May
Published: April 3, 2018