West African wandering musicians or griots play an important role in conserving the historical information of a family, tribe or entire nation. Although being griot is inherited, it takes years and years of study to learn the stories and the music that accompanies these stories. After these studies, a griot has become poet, historian, entertainer and not in the least, a musician.
Traditional instruments like the kora, an African cousin of the lute made from a large calabash covered with a stretched skin and no fingerboard, play an important role in the griot tradition. Also, percussion instruments add to the drama of storytelling. As with too many cultural expressions, the role of the griot is diminishing, however. Newspapers, radio and television have taken over the traditional role of newsbringer, leaving only history to the griot. Fortunately, trained griots embrace modern music as an extension of their cultural background and preserve and even spread the historical richness to new audiences.
Paris/France is probably the only place in the world where African tradition is so close to Western tradition and open enough to allow both forms a cultural amalgamous unity. It is here that kora player Djeli Moussa Diawara from Guinea, pianist Abdoulaye Diabaté from Senegal and fellow Senegalese percussionist Moussa Cissoko met for the Kora Jazz Trio.
All three men share not only a traditional griot background -- or in the case of Diabaté, a formal musical training -- they all have played with many African and Western musicians. In their work, they always add their own traditional musical inheritance to whatever is played.
With the Kora Jazz Trio, these artists can express their sense of rhythm and melody in a Jazz setting without influences from traditional Western Jazz men. This way, Jazz assumes a completely different starting point. Here we do not hear Jazz musicians that for some reason convert to so-called world music by hiring musicians with a traditional African background like an added spice. Kora Jazz Trio uses an original Jazz idiom of chorus, solo and dialogue.
Abdoulaye Diabaté has a lyrical piano style and his compositions are full of repetitive patterns with openings that the typical open-stringed sound of the kora fills in. The almost minimalist percussion of Moussa Cissoko and guest calabash player Mamadou Koné form the perfect backdrop. Cissoko also add his high-pitched angel-like voice in a few songs.
This CD Part Two contains 10 original compositions by Abdoulaye Diabaté and Djeli Moussa Diawara next to the Monk classic "Rhythmn'ing" and "La Mer" by Charles Trenet. The Kora Jazz Trio's acoustic warmth and lyricism are its strong points. All songs come to a mesmerizing lyrical climax within a few bars, very different from 'pure' jazz as we know it. Here there is no struggle to get from start to melodic culmination yet it gets there in an organic way. Don't think it's like easy listening musak-jazz ( the start of "La Mer" could set you off on the wrong foot) or yucky smooth jazz. This is vibrant and energetic.
There's only one 'but' and that is the mastering. All tracks are full-throttled and hit 0dB. Dynamic range is limited to about 13dB. Though the musical quality makes up for this horror, there is a substantial loss due to monsieur Terrazoni's lack of mastering restraint.