This trio of kora (African harp), piano and percussion must rank as the most unusual in jazz, African jazz and even African music. It’s made up of three West African virtuosos who have each led successful careers of their own for several decades. Senegalese pianist Abdoulaye Diabate played with Salif Keita and Senegal’s national band. Djeli Moussa Diawara, on kora, has recorded with steel-guitar wizard Bob Brozman and released his own kora-meets-hi-life projects. Multipercussionist Moussa Cissoko, from a famous family of percussionists, has backed up Peter Gabriel and Manu Dibango.
The kora, piano and percussion never get stuck in their designated slots of melody, harmony and rhythm. Instead, they stretch out to accent and support each other — and sound unlike any other band from any musical genre.
Diawara and Diabate divide the composing duties between them. “Goree” flows with a stately, almost classical precision, while “N’Dimi” throbs and pulses with dance energy. The rapid shifts of “Mimi” propel huge sweeping runs from both kora and piano. It’s jazz improvisation, but flying along over incredibly nimble African rhythms.
When they play the only cover, “Now’s the Time,” a Charlie Parker classic, you can just picture Parker grinning broadly at his blues being taken back home and redone with such ingenuity and integrity.
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