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Foday Musa Suso/Jack DeJohnette: Music from the Hearts of the Masters

Album Reviews:

Down Beat (p.66) - 3 stars out of 5 - "Polyrhythms help give these nine duets a dramatic flavor; thought the overriding tone of the music is gentle, an aura of complexity marks the work."

JazzTimes (pp.90-91) - "[Suso] revels in the kora's bell-like resonance. DeJohnette plays the role of crisp accompanist brilliantly."

Dirty Linen (p.85) - "DeJohnette's tasteful drum fills and cymbal work enhance, rather than overpower, the delicate melody. The two musicians are veterans of cross-cultural collaborations....Consistently engaging."

Album Notes

When Foday Musa Suso teamed with drummer Hamid Drake in the `80s to form the Mandingo Griot Society, the usage of kora and the American drum kit was a novelty, and successfully but precariously placed the traditions of African village music and jazz oriented polyrhythms in a new place. Suso and the veteran drummer Jack DeJohnette team up in duets that do not juxtapose, but complement the rhythmic strengths of the different instruments, creating a language of their own. Suso is happy to play the vibrant shimmering melodies his 21-string instrument uniquely brings to the table, while DeJohnette adopts a sensitive, supportive rather than similarly melodic role, forming funky beats, cymbal accents, and colorations that shade rather than drive the music. There are two traditional pieces: "Kaira" sports a repeat melody buoyed by DeJohnette's slight R&B strut, while "Sunjatta Keita" is a simple 4/4 jam. The delicate, organic, minimalist blending of instruments during "Rose Garden" displays an extension of traditions, while the 6/8 "Mountain Love Dance" evokes the kind of magnificent natural sounds you expect from these two. A loose drum solo and kora separate traded-off identities in "Voice of the Kudrus," there's a boogaloo flavor from DeJohnette for "Ocean Wave," and Suso's kora cascades on the danceable and playful "Worldwide Funk." The sound of the hunter's guitar or douss'n gouni is featured on "Ancient Techno." Though DeJohnette is also known for playing piano, hand drums, or electronics, none of that is present here, nor much of a mainstream jazz content. It is a consistent and playful dialogue between two incredible musicians who need no definitions, restrictions, or guidance to make their spare, soulful, diverse, and heartfelt original music happen. ~ Michael G. Nastos


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