Bones & Tones – Bones & Tones – Freedom Art FAR 52964, 48:35 ***1/2:
(Abdou Mboup – percussion, vocals (tracks 1 & 8), kora; Lloyd Haber – marimba, bells, percussion; Jaribu Shahid – bass, percussion; Warren Smith – vibraphone, percussion)
Bones & Tones is a go-to project for any and all percussion fans. The quartet – Warren Smith (vibraphone, percussion), Abdou Mboup (percussion, vocals), Jaribu Shahid (bass, percussion) and Lloyd Haber (marimba, bells, percussion) – provides various and assorted types of percussion music and the all-original eight tracks include a wide-ranging mix of rhythmic accents from jazz, African music and even a bit of Caribbean inclinations.
Haber formed Bones & Tones in 2009 because he wanted to create a group which blended world music with jazz and could use vibraphone and marimba as lead instruments. The result is 48 minutes of loosely grooving material which combines highly organized percussive elements with the freedom of jazz. Although Bones & Tones have a singular style all their own, antecedents for this sort of world music/jazz hybrid include Don Cherry’s non-Western works (Haber’s credits include performances with Cherry) and Max Roach’s M’Boom, which is appropriate since Smith was a founding participant of Roach’s ensemble. The other Bones & Tones members also have diverse résumés. Mboup has recorded with people as varied as The Talking Heads and Joe Zawinul, and Shahid has been on stage with or in the studio with Milt Jackson, Henry Threadgill and Geri Allen.
On every piece Bones & Tones place percussion as the focus of the action, but this is always done in distinct settings. For example, Mboup chants and uses the kora – a West African, 21-string bridge-harp – during the opening cut, “Breathing Water,” where the aqueous arrangement has an Asian stimulation as well as an African disposition. Another piece which also has a West African penchant and also utilizes the kora is the closing number, the pleasing “In the Valley of Dreams,” which is underscored by Haber’s West Indies-tinted marimba, Mboup’s echoed, West African vocals and Shahid’s bubbly bass.
On the flip side is the tropicalia-touched “Carajillo Con Mantilla,” something Smith co-wrote with fellow M’Boom alum Ray Mantilla (another version can be heard on Mantilla’s 1984 release Hands of Fire). This is an infectiously melodic tune which profits from an invigorating groove laid out via Smith’s vibes, Shahid’s undulating bass and includes bright solos by Smith and Haber. An equally engrossing composition is Haber’s multi-layered and yet minimalistic “Song for the Old Ones,” where Haber directs the group through several modes of expression and rhythmic coloring.
The album’s highlight is Smith’s nine-minute tune “228,” a musical mosaic which courses from floating vibraphone melodies reminiscent of Milt Jackson to agitated percussive incursions. The cut has a tonally beautiful foundation despite aggressive asides. “228” proves Bones & Tones can be perfect on slow movements while also being effective on actively intensified rhythms.
The foursome maintains sharp grooves which strengthen all of the tracks, so nothing is ever simply an empty case of overcharged grooves or rhythms. The swaying, Latin-hued “Dance for Suwoo” and the swinging “MR7” are commendable instances where vibes, marimba and bass deliver creative percussive seasoning.
1. Breathing Water
3. Dance for Suwoo
5. Song for the Old Ones
6. Carajillo Con Mantilla
In the Valley of Dreams
— Doug Simpson