Famoudou Don Moye

The African Tapes

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This two-CD live sequel to Cassava Balls (Golden Years of New Jazz 4) captures the flavor of the trio's tour of Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia in the spring of 1985. The exquisite percussion of Famoudou Don Moye (of the Art Ensemble of Chicago) and Hartmut Geerken colors every tune with a Dionysian joy. John Tchicai blows hard and convincingly, as he belts out simple riffs and improvises melodically and passionately. Locals, including children and accomplished percussionists, occasionally join the trio, and the native influences are always apparent. The eight-page booklet is a plus, describing the music and the circumstances of the performances. For many in the audience, this was a first exposure to this kind of music. Imagine introducing Albert Ayler's "Ghosts" to a receptive, musically virginal crowd. On one piece, the sounds reminded some of a secret religious ceremony and they fled in terror from the auditorium. There is much excitement everywhere, as Tchicai builds tension through repetition and Moye and Geerken fan the flames, generating intense heat. Some may find the emphasis on percussion and little instruments tiresome, but there is a unique enlightening quality to the bells and whistles that engulfs the saxophone in a meditative cloud of vaporous cacophony.

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