Susie Ibarra

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Folkloriko Review

by Thom Jurek

As drummer, percussionist, and composer Susie Ibarra moves further into the exploration of rhythm as a lyric force, and becomes more expansive and adventurous, the more she seems to find a center that is both accessible and appealing. On Folkloriko, she premieres two new pieces centered in the folk traditions of her native Philippines; they center around the notion of rhythmic figures that move off into tonal and textural worlds that seek the "seam" in music, the place where different traditions (her indigenous culture and those of the Far East and Africa as well as jazz) meet, dialogue, and intersect in the speech of the interlocutor -- the band -- and become not only subject but object as well. "Anitos" is a duet piece for percussion that reconvenes the notion of "talking drums." In her duet with Robert Rodriguez, these instruments color and stretch one another; they create not only a dialogue in polyrhythmic linguistics, but a travelogue across time and space as well. "Lakbay" is an astonishing nine-part suite that covers nearly 40 minutes in playing time, and centuries in musical, cultural, and spiritual journeying, with Ibarra accompanied by pianist Craig Taborn and violinist Jennifer Choi with Wadada Leo Smith guesting on three parts. Here the theme is the life of a Filipino immigrant worker. Musically, the sounds of various rural regions, jazz, flamenco, and gypsy music all weave together into a tapestry that is bigger than any one nation, but all contained within the heart of a single human being. Ibarra's ability to fuse together composition and improvisation with rhythmic invention is simultaneously uncanny and visionary. The music is haunting, humorous, tragic, driven, and ultimately deeply moving. Folkloriko is her bravest -- and most conceptually realized -- recorded outing.

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