The Tel-Aviv Sessions
[Cumbacha Records (2012)]
Cultural cross-pollination has become common in world music, although the process is not always successful artistically. The Touré-Raichel project is the counter-intuitive collaboration between Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré and Israeli pianist-pop superstar Idan Raichel. After the pair crossed paths in a German airport, Raichel sat in on a couple of Touré’s concerts, leading to the three hour jam (also including bassist Yossi Fine and calabash player Souleyman Kane) in a Tel Aviv studio that forms the core of this album. In the process of transforming the jam into an album, vocals and additional instrumentation were added to a few tracks, notably Raichel band member Cabra Casay’s haunting vocals and lyrics on “Ane Nahatka” and Toure’s vocal turn on “Alkatou.”
The tracks by the basic quartet, such as the modal exercise “Azawade” have an eerie, spacious feel, emphasized by Toure’s use of acoustic guitar rather than his characteristic electric instrument. Raichel, also stripped down from his usual lush pop arrangements, improvises rippling clusters of notes around Toure’s guitar arpeggios. The rhythm section also plays a vital role in shaping the hypnotic mood of the session. Fine, a master bassist who worked with both Toure and Raichel in the past, holds things together with his simple, supple lines, and Kane, who is part of Touré’s touring band, creates some remarkable rhythms using just his hands and a large dried gourd.
At times, as during parts of “Experience,” the music develops a repetitive feel that belies its origins as a jam session, but even then, the excitement of these four musicians forging a new group voice is palpable.
—Michael Parrish (San Jose, CA)