Famoudou Don Moye

Sun Percussion, Vol. 1

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AECO, the label formed by the Art Ensemble of Chicago, only released three records; this was the first, followed by solo efforts from Joseph Jarman and Malachi Favors. Moye, the brilliant drummer for the Art Ensemble since 1970, was perfectly capable of handling a solo performance, coming equipped with a veritable arsenal of percussion, ranging from the smallest handheld clickers to massive gongs and African log drums. This is no showoff-y affair, no pyrotechnical displays of how fast he can play or how many drumheads he can swipe in a split second. In fact, for the first five tracks of the album, he never even gets near the standard drum set, instead engaging in a dialogue of bells, shakers, vocal incantations, and, most deliciously, gorgeous balaphone playing (the balaphone, or balafon, being a kind of African antecedent to the marimba). He approaches each piece as a singular composition, much as fellow solo performer Jerome Cooper was wont to do. Each is shaped by a certain idea, a certain family of instruments within which Moye extracts a wealth of complex rhythms and colors. When he finally reaches the drum set on "Scowiefamuja," he remains restrained, offering delicate playing spiced with vocal grunts and asides which recall Milford Graves more than a little. Perhaps surprising in retrospect, the liner notes are written by Stanley Crouch who, at this stage in his career, had nothing but praise for this adventurous percussionist. His opinion of this branch of music may have changed over the years, but he was dead on about Moye, one of the finest drummers to emerge from the AACM movement, Sun Percussion offers a fine portrait of his musical conception. Highly recommended.

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