213

Jon Balke / Batagraf: Statements

Budd Kopman By

Sign in to view read count
Jon Balke / Batagraf: Statements Batagraf is less a group or band than a collection of like-minded musicians who have come together to explore ideas related to rhythm and language. Made up of four percussionists and five vocalist/reciters, along with but two "normal" instrumentalists (trumpet and alto saxophone) and Balke himself playing electronic keyboard and percussion, plus some vocals and sound processing, one might think that the music would be percussion heavy.

That is not the case, and, if you can suppress expectations and allow the sounds of Statements to flow, you can have a very interesting listening experience. Balke has always been an deep musical thinker, and on Kyanos (ECM, 2002) he coaxed music from instrumental players that was quite beautiful in its own stark way, evoking many different emotions through the motives and mix of instrumentalists, while taking his time and allowing the album to evolve on its own.

Statements has entirely different aims and sounds completely different; the Magnetic North Orchestra is not Batagraf. The main ideas relate to the intersection of language and musical rhythm—the place where language has its own rhythms and rhythm is own meanings. As Balke says, "The idea triggered the project in two directions: the inclusion of literal meaning in the sound itself and focus on the rhythm and musicality of spoken language."

Electronics play a big part in the sound of this record, not only the keyboards but also the fact that almost everything, including the drums, is processed in some way. Much of the drumming is based in the African tradition, which emphasizes the meaning held within the rhythms. "Haomanna" introduces these drums in simple rhythms and a text recital by Miki N'Doye in Wolof that has its own rhythm. Keyboards join in (with some extremely low sounds) as eventually does Frode Nymo on alto sax. We slowly ease into a jazz piece showing that language, rhythm and music are all related. "Butano" follows in this vein, but at a faster rhythm, actually creating a light, tight groove with some higher voices in the background. Nymo comes in again, playing some very long, sinuous lines, and once more the relationship is made clear.

"Doublespeak" stresses rhythm and language content as a female voice in the foreground says some short politicized words against a steady drum background with some injections of keyboards, processed drums and background voices. Electronic sounds which could easily come from insects begin "Altiett," as a sped up background voice provides an imitation of the same. Behind this there are many drum sounds, processed and unprocessed. When Nymo enters once again, the piece almost coalesces into a rather cool but raucous track, only to fall apart toward the end. "Pajaro" is fascinating as a baby's vocalizations are accompanied by organ sounds. Having now been sensitized, our ears perceive the voice sounding full of melody and rhythm.

Entering the sound world of Jon Balke's Batagraf is ultimately quite easy and enjoyable, with many rewards as it pulls you along.

Visit Jon Balke on the web.


Track Listing: Haomanna; Butano; Rraka; Doublespeak; Pregoneras Del Bosque; Betong; Altiett; En Vuelo; Pajaro; Whistleblower; Karagong; Unknown

Personnel: Frode Nymo: alto saxophone; Jon Balke: keyboards, percussion, vocals; Kenneth Ekornes: percussion; Harald Skullerud: percussion; Helge Andreas Norbakken: percussion; Ingar Zach: percussion; Arve Henriksen: trumpet; Sidsel Endersen: text recitals in English; Miki NDoye: Wolof text recital; Solveig Sletteahjell: vocals; Jocelyn Sete: voice; Camara Silva: voice; Jennifer Miskja Balke: voice; unknown media announcer: voice.

Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: ECM Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read The MUH Trio – Prague After Dark CD/LP/Track Review The MUH Trio – Prague After Dark
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Les Deux Versants Se Regardent CD/LP/Track Review Les Deux Versants Se Regardent
by John Sharpe
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Molto Bene CD/LP/Track Review Molto Bene
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Fellowship CD/LP/Track Review Fellowship
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 22, 2017
Read E.S.T. Symphony CD/LP/Track Review E.S.T. Symphony
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 22, 2017
Read "Fierce Silence" CD/LP/Track Review Fierce Silence
by John Sharpe
Published: December 9, 2016
Read "Southern Avenue" CD/LP/Track Review Southern Avenue
by James Nadal
Published: February 10, 2017
Read "The Journey" CD/LP/Track Review The Journey
by James Nadal
Published: January 5, 2017
Read "La Sombra" CD/LP/Track Review La Sombra
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: January 10, 2017
Read "Confidences" CD/LP/Track Review Confidences
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 3, 2017
Read "Pass It On" CD/LP/Track Review Pass It On
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: May 11, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!