“Chamber Music” – [TrackList below] Ballaké Sissoko, kora/ Vincent Segal, cello – Six Degrees 657036117129 ****:
“Port Saïd Street” – [TrackList below] Francis Coletta, Godin electroacoustic guitar/ Janas Tauber, cello – Origin Records Zurich Series 82580 ****:
Cellists around the world are breaking out of the standard chamber music and orchestral settings and venturing into new venues and new mixes with other musicians of all types. Here are two unusual duos in which the cello is one of the two instruments.
The West African kora is probably the most sophisticated and richest-sounding of all African musical instruments. Somewhat similar to the East Indian sitar, the 21-string harp with its large resonator produces a more mellow sound which often accompanies the story-telling songs of itinerant musicians, the griots. Seven of the ten tracks here are compositions of African koro player Sissoko, with three of them composed by cellist Segal. There is a vocal on one of the tracks and other musicians join in on African instruments on a couple of the tracks.
Sissoko recorded a well-received kora duo album with Toumani Diabate, “New Ancient Strings.” Cellist Segal has collaborated with Sting, Marianne Faithful and others. Sissoko and Segal met at festivals in France and began playing together just for fun; they found a common ground for their instruments. Their music – mostly improvised – blends European and African musical traditions in fascinating ways. The album was recorded in France but the label is in San Francisco.
Port Saïd Street is in Marseilles, France, and is the title of one of the ten tunes here, composed in this case by guitarist Coletta. The Godin electroacoustic guitar is played by performers looking for an amplified nylon string guitar that can be used both live and in the studio – it has a USB output. The guitar’s maple top is closer to a hardbody electric guitar than a typical acoustic guitar. I once recorded a guitar and cello duo, and the sound combination is a lovely one. Tauber has a fine swing to his style, which fits perfectly with the jazz guitar of Coletta. The cello sound reminded me of Fred Katz’ work in the Chico Hamilton Quintet of many years ago. While the tunes are mostly by Coletta, there are also entries from Ellington, Horace Silver and Johnny Green. The CD was recorded in Switzerland. A delightful sound. Don’t be misled by the album title – there’s no influence of Arabic music here. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you.)
Chamber Music TrackList:
Chamber Music, Oscarine, Houdesti, Wo Ye N’Gnougobine, Histoire de Molly, “Ma-Ma” FC, Regret-a kader Barry, Halinkata Djoubé, Future, Mako Mady
Port Saïd TrackList:
Surfin’ on the Neck, Vasile, Nica’s Dream, Body and Soul, La Calanque, How Insensitive, Route des Epices, Mistry Cat, Port Saïd Street, Caravan
— John Sunier
Bill Evans – Treasures: Solo, Trio, & Orchestra Recordings from Denmark – Elemental Music
Another Bill Evans LP release to “treasure”…