Songs of Sunlife: Inside the Didgeridu

Douglas Ewart

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Songs of Sunlife: Inside the Didgeridu Review

by Stewart Mason

Not since Rufus Harley first appeared with his jazz bagpipes in the early '60s has a jazz album featured such an unlikely lead instrument as Douglas Ewart's Songs of Sunlife: Inside the Didgeridu. Ewart, an AACM member who first discovered the Australian aboriginal instrument in the '60s, designed and built all of the instruments he plays on this album, in keeping with the precepts of traditional didgeridoo players. Accompanied on some tracks by bassist Adam Lane and percussionist Stephen Goldstein, Ewart creates complex harmonics and overtones with the deceptively simple instrument, from the quite literally spine-tingling low-register throb of the three-part "Mud Bath" to the lighthearted, almost vocal "Draghopping." A few songs feature other instruments, like the roar flutes (a native Australian instrument that creates a sound akin to a birdsong) on "Ancestors Flying," but the majority of Songs of Sunlife: Inside the Didgeridu is an impressive overview of what can be done with one of the world's most unique instruments, as well as one of the most delightfully idiosyncratic jazz releases since Rahsaan Roland Kirk's similarly conceptual Natural Black Inventions: Root Strata.

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