Tamma With Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell

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Tamma (which means talking drum in Gambian) is a percussion and horn jazz group founded by Gambian master drummer Miki N'Doye and brought to Norway where he enlisted the aid of that country's musicians in forming an open-ended music that would engage European cultures in the music of the African Diaspora. A quintet, they feature a proper trap kit drummer, saxophonist, trumpet, an electric bassist, and N'Doye. All members play some percussion and sing (more like chant). They make an ethereal, moody, high-lonesome kind of rhythm-based Afro-jazz. Performing live at the Mode International Jazz Festival, they were joined for two days by the late trumpeter and douzongouni player (African guitar), and the late drummer Ed Blackwell both men at that time were members of Old and New Dreams and former bandmates in the Ornette Coleman Quartet. From the shimmering chant-like beginning of "Samodado/Don's Tune," the listener is aware of the easy complicity between these musicians. The dual trumpets move in from the ghost chant into full on carnival strut, they soar in unison against the polyrhythmic intensity of the drums as saxophonist Erik Balke soars above the entire ensemble. For his part, Blackwell, dance all around these rhythms, creating a metalingual polyrhythmic counterpoint. On the traditional numbers, such as "Tara," "Senegal," and "Tamma Song" -- which is tailgated with "Afro Disco" -- care is taken to create a proper call-and-response cadence before introducing improvisational effects. And one they are introduced it is a procedure to keep sight of that melodic structure at all times, no matter where the rest of the harmonic balances shift. In this way it is easy to hear how traditional Ornette's own "Dancing In Your Head" was structured. Cherry and Blackwell don't so much energize an already completely energized ensemble, but add a kind of hip factor, a marching through the music attitude that allows the band itself to take things to another level.

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