Toure-Raichel Collective

The Tel Aviv Session

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Full marks to both Vieux Farka Touré and Israeli keyboard player Idan Raichel for this very daring venture. Going into the studio with two other musicians -- on calabash and bass -- to improvise and see what happens takes not only skill but also plenty of guts. Did it pay off? From the material here the answer is a resounding yes. This isn't about ego, it's about conversation -- which also means plenty of listening. The musicians trade ideas, push each other along, and explore each other's cultures and ideas along the way. It's a sign of how far Touré has come, and how quickly, that he sounds completely confident in this situation and company, utterly holding his own. It's also an indication of how much music transcends any geographical borders and refuses to be placed easily in any pigeonhole. There are traces of jazz, blues, West Africa, and more, but they're subsumed in the completely different whole of the sound. There are guests on four tracks, the most outstanding being Mark Eliyahu on the eerie kamaneche fiddle, but they're icing on an already tasty cake. It's not all brilliant -- for example, "Le Niger" seems more noodling, and unlike the river of the same name, doesn't seem to really go anywhere -- but most of the time there's real exploration going on, a meeting of minds that grabs the attention, especially on the opener, "Azawade." It's music that breathes gently, establishing its own place, and providing a true reward for the listener.

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