This self-titled album is a fitting tribute to Touré’s and Diabaté’s genius and friendship, and is a beautiful farewell.
A master of the kora (21-string West African harp), Toumani Diabaté has brought the traditional music of his native Mali to the attention of an international audience with a series of well-received solo albums and some unlikely, but acclaimed, collaborations. Although he came from a family of musicians, Diabaté (born August 10, 1965) taught himself to play the kora at an early age, as his father, who also played the instrument, was often away touring. He developed a style of playing that, while being strongly rooted in the Malian tradition, is also open to a wide range of other influences, such as jazz and flamenco. He has subsequently sought out other musicians from around the world who are willing to experiment with him, even performing a concert in Amsterdam with a classical harpist.
Chucho Valdes is easily the living king of Cuban jazz piano. This anthology, issued by the premier Bele Bele Jazz Club label from Spain, is an overview of the roots of the pianist's development as both an interpreter of classic Cuban material and as an improviser. The first 12 tracks on the set, recorded in 1970, borrow heavily from the "feelings" movement of Cuban dancehall music from the late '40s and early '50s, with numerous compositions by Jose Mendez and Cesar Portillo de la Luz. There are also trademark Valdes originals such as his own "Preludio No. 1," based on Debussy's. Other tracks here, from 1982, borrow from the later dancehall traditions and lineages such as the "Evocations" series written by Jesus Valdez including one for Josh White! The first 12 cuts features Valdes with a stellar rhythm section that included bassist Orlando Lopez (Cachaito) and drummer Enrique Pla, and the last eight are solo.
Agostino Steffani (1654-1728) was the most important composer ever to be appointed by the Duchy of Hannover. At the end of the 17th century this noble family embarked on a cultural offensive with the objective of having Duke Ernst August become a prince elector. To this end, the Welph dynasty obtained the services of Steffani, a master choice in itself as his works are still performed to this day in the majestic gardens of Princess Caroline of Monaco and her husband, the current Ernst August of Hannover.
The cover of Lance Lopez’s Tell the Truth features Lopez sitting on an amp in the middle of nowhere. He’s holding a Les Paul, his fingers seemingly caught in mid-solo. ‘Oh no,’ I thought. ‘This is going to be 45 minutes of endless guitar overplaying.’ But Lopez proved me wrong with a tasteful collection of bluesy hard rock with impressive guitar playing that lifts the songs, but doesn’t compete with them…