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Friday, July 2, 2010

Adam Rudolph & Ralph Jones - Yèyi (Meta, 2010) ****

Percussionist Adam Rudolph and reedist Ralph Jones bring one long improvisation, changing instruments and tone as they move forward on their journey.

Adam Rudolph plays membranophones and idiophones, such as handrumset (kongos, djembe, tarija, zabumba), frame drum, thumb pianos, cup gongs, kongo slit drum, glockenspiel, percussion. He also plays chordophones and aerophones: sintir, melodica, berber reed horn, overtone horn, and mulitphonic singing. Ralph Jones plays mainly aerophones, to know : alto & c flutes, bass clarinet, tenor & soprano saxophones, ney, hichiriki, hulusi, umtshingo and bamboo flutes, and some idiophones such as bamboo sticks and shakers.

As you can imagine, the music is full of African influences, with hypnotic polyrhythms, some singing and expansive playing. Despite the limited line-up, they vary quite well between sad, joyous and spiritual moments, giving their music lots of depth.

As the liner notes comment : “Yèyi” refers to the yodeling of the Mbuti pygmies, one of the oldest indigenous people of the Kongo region of Africa. Their inspiration on the music is twofold, according to Rudolph: one is in the communal harmony with nature towards which the artists strive, and the second is in the legacy of a culture that has rippled outwards over continents and generations, through the African-American musical influences that Rudolph and Jones draw upon".

Friends, this is musical joy and authenticity from beginning to end. Simple and profound.

Yusef Lateef & Adam Rudolph - Towards The Unknown (Meta, 2010)

The quality and authenticity of the Rudolph and Jones album make the contrast with this album all the greater. On this album with string and horns ensemble, Rudolph and reedist Yusef Lateef each composed a concerto for each other.

This album is full of arrogant pretense, false emotions, and with an ambition that is both misplaced and unmet.  The foundation is often good though, some of the pieces and interactions between Lateef and Rudolph sound fantastic, if only the reeds and string ensemble were absent.

The Go: Organic Orchestra Strings are :
Violins - Sarah Bernstein, Charles Burnham, Trina Basu Mark Chung, Elektra Kurtis, Skye Steele, Midori Yamamoto Violas - Stephanie Griffin, Jason Hwang Cellos - Greg Hefferman, Daniel Levin

The Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble are :
Roberta Michel, flute James Roe, oboe Marianne Gythfeldt, clarinet Erik Holtje, bassoon Tim McCarthy, horn Thomas Verchot, trumpet David Nelson, trombone Joseph Kubera, piano Conrad Harris, violin 1 Lynn Bechtold, violin 2 David Gold, viola Aron Zelkowicz, cello Troy Rinker, contrabass

In sum, both albums are at each other's extreme. The one deep and authentic, the other shallow and arrogant.

© stef