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Royal Hartigan & Blood Drum Spirit: Time Changes

Karl Ackermann By

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Drummer, pianist, and composer, Royal Hartigan, first encountered bassist Wes Brown and saxophonist David Bindman at Wesleyan University. The three were instrumental in the early development of the Ghanaian-American group Talking Drums and recorded Blood Drum Spirit (Innova) in 1993 with Kevin McNeal on guitar. The ensemble's follow up, Blood Drum Spirit: Royal Hartigan Ensemble Live in China—also on Innova—was not released until 2008, when pianist Art Hirahara had replaced McNeal. Time Changes is Hartigan's fourth double-CD as a leader and his third with the Blood Drum Spirit ensemble.

Hartigan's ties to the drumming culture of West Africa are indestructible. So too are his bonds to the people he has lived with on and off for years; people who have experienced famine, homelessness and the genocide in their post-colonial struggle for self-determination. The music of the region reflects circumstances that encompass everyday tasks, ceremony, simple pleasures, and ongoing pain.

The inspirations of West Africa are felt in the traditional rhythmic creations "Bewaa" and "Circle of Creation/Adzohu Suite" based on the dance drumming of the Dagara and Ewe peoples of the region. The quartet puts very unique spins on standards such as Eddie Harris' "Freedom Jazz Dance," John Coltrane's "Naima," "St. Louis Blues " and "Lift Every Voice and Sing." It's always a pleasure to hear Hartigan solo, and on Time Changes the master drummer takes over on five tracks—"Drum Solo for Mr. Adams, Mr. McBrowne, Mr. Roach, Mr. Jarvis," "Fontomfrom Suite," "Dancing on the Drums," "Penteng" and "Blues for Mister Charlie and Miss Ann."

Whether the band is covering classics, improvising original pieces, or interpreting the drum dancing music, the aesthetic is almost always rooted in West Africa. "We Are One!" is a companion piece movie that goes behind the scenes with the group, in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, and in Ghana. A dance teacher in the Asanti region relates "You cannot detach our dances from who we are, the dances tell a story. The dance itself is the culture." Time Changes relates those stories, in a variety of styles, and is compelling listening throughout.

Track Listing: Disc 1: Hits; Donno Ntoaso; Freedom Dance; The Betrayal; Drum Solo for Mr. Adams, Mr. McBrowne, Mr. Roach, Mr. Jarvis, Mr. Blackwell; James and Hazel; Bewaa; Silent Spaces; If Only.........; Fontomfrom Suite; Naima. Disc 2: Circle of Creation / Adzohu Suite; Dancing on the Drums; Longing (A Boy and a Beauty); Penteng; The Look; Blues for Mister Charlie and Miss Ann; St. Louis Blues; Lift Every Voice and Sing; Syrinx; High Fly.

Personnel: David Bindman: tenor and soprano saxophones, flute; Wes Brown: contrabass; Art Hirahara: piano; Royal Hartigan: drum set, donno, hourglass drum.

Title: Time Changes | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Self Produced

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