Djeli Moussa Diawara was born to a family of griots in Kankan (Guinea) in 1961. His father is a balafon player, his mother is a backing singer while his half-brother is Mory Kanté. As a singer and a musician, Djeli Moussa has developed a very intimate bond with his 32-stringed kora. He has not wandered too far from tradional rhythms, which never prevented him from using his mandingo instrument for unexpected styles : salsa, flamenco and jazz.
Born to a family of professional musicians, Abdoulaye Diabaté was rocked by the sounds of his country – Senegal - from an early age. After studying for ten years in the National Academy of Music and winning several top awards (musical theory, piano...), he fell in love with jazz and became the National Orchestra of Senegal bandleader. He has known many a musical experience (Manu Dibango, Mory
Kanté, Papa Wemba, Salif Keita, Sekouba Bambino...). Abdoulaye Diabaté certainly is the most coveted composer-arranger of his generation among his African peers.
Born to a family of Senegalese griots, Moussa Cissoko is one of the great West African master percussionists. Since the early 80’s, his skillful heartfelt playing which blends various rhythms has been complementing the music of several major artists of the African and French scenes (Manu Dibango, Ray Lema, Jacques Higelin, Bernard Lavilliers, Claude Nougaro and Afrocelt Sound System), not to forget world-renowned stars such as Peter Gabriel.
A couple of years after the trio’s first opus, “Part one”, the piano, percussions and kora once again unite to offer an alchemy you could roughly label Mandingo jazz. Aboulaye Diabaté, Moussa Cissoko and Djeli Moussa Diawara proved in 2003 that they could re-interpret classic African American standards with a consummate ease, infusing songs like “Now is the time” by Charlie Parker, with a joyous spontaneity. The trio hoped to reproduce that unbridled energy in the follow-up album, but the result is uneven as the virtuosic qualities of each artist fails to gell on interpretations like “Rhythm’ning” (composed by Thelonious Monk), a miasmic “La mer” and the flat composition “Djame”.
Fortunately, songs like “Sunugal”, “Folly” and the luscious closing track “Djanya” prove what pedigree these three fine musicians have, particularly when they are joined by the “Prince” of the calabash, Mamadou Koné. Ten of the twelve songs are originals composed during the long tours the band have been involved in. The refined touch of Diabaté’s piano keys and rippling swing of the 32 kora strings tweaked by Diawara provide a solid backbone for the album’s most successful songs. When the band swings into spontaneous motion there is a wonderful freedom and joy that is released, confirming the rich African heritage at the root of jazz.
The bridge the three West African artists have built over the Atlantic is the result of the three-year-old vision of producer Gilbert Castro. For years before, he had produced albums for Diawara, bringing to the fore the musician’s acoustic adaptability and singing ability. In 2003, Castro allied these skills with the aesthetic touch that Diabaté has picked up over the years with the likes of Manu Dibango, Sekouba Bambino, Salif Keita and Papa Wemba. The griot percussions of Moussa Cissoko had also found their place in the Afro-European scene as the Senegalese backed top musicians such as Ray Léma, Jacques Higelin, Bernard Lavilliers and groups like the Afro Celt Sound System. Castro has not hesitated in encouraging Cissoko to take a more central role in these semi-improvised recordings, providing complex and rapid-fire polyrhythms that give the album a dancy touch.
But it is when the musicians allow the Mandingo traditions that all three are so well versed in to take off - slightly pushing the classic jazz mode to the side - that “Part two” develops an exciting originality of its own.
10. La Mer
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