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African touch in a lively collection

This album shows a renewed interaction between contemporary African music and jazz

Afro Blue Vol 2
Rs 100

Subtitled The Roots and Rhythms of Jazz, this album (like the original Afro Blue) is meant to be a collection of pieces explicitly showing the effect of interaction between jazz and African music. Although jazz is of course an Afro-American art in its origins, the results of a renewed interaction or fusion between it and contemporary African music can often be clearly distinguished from classic jazz.

Most of the numbers here apparently date from the time of hard bop and indeed many are no different from that style of jazz. That need not be surprising, since hard bop, even more than most other styles of jazz, is very rhythmic and percussive, like African music. Besides, the musician generally considered the originator of hard bop was the drummer Art Blakey.

And yet, the two tracks representing him here -- Message from Kenya and Obirin African -- are among those showing the clearest African influences. Both have a much stronger emphasis on percussion than one expects from mainstream jazz, with African percussion instruments joining jazz drums in laying down the rhythm.

Blakey clearly made a point of studying African music, like the pianists McCoy Tyner and Randy Weston. Both are represented here by pieces showing the results of their efforts. Tyner's Malika is a masterpiece of arrangement, with different instruments being brought in one by one to induct changes of volume, tempo, mood or rhythm. It has African drums, flute, wordless singing and cowbells, in addition to conventional jazz instruments, such as his own piano and a tenor sax, and repeated melodic patterns (called "riffs" in the jazz lexicon).

Weston's much shorter piece, Zulu, adds congas to his strongly percussive piano-playing, trombone and tenor and soprano saxes to create interesting rhythmic patterns. Cannonball Adderley's Marabi is another number that mixes African drums and beats with conventional hard bop features, including solos from Adderley's alto sax and a trumpet.

Not all the other numbers sound like straight jazz, but Appointment in Ghana by the Jazz Crusaders, Zambia by Lee Morgan and Katanga by Curtis Amy and Dupree Bolton are among the pure hard bop pieces. Apparently the African component here is limited to their titles! However, they're all worth listening to whether as straight jazz or African-influenced music.


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