26 May 2009

Monday's mp3: Love the Different

"Kelenia" is a Bambara word for "the love of people who are different from each other." It's also the perfect title for this album, a stunning collaboration between an Israeli-born New York reed player and his Malian-American band. Oran Etkin bridges the span between Africa and America by building on his jazz and Jewish roots, integrating his clarinet and saxes seamlessly with the balafon of Balla Kouyate, the calabash percussion of Makane Kouyate, and the bass of Joe Sanders. He also brings to the album's mix the talents of Benin-born guitarist Lionel Loueke and other guests.

The album's opening track, "Yekeke," sets a high standard with Etkin's clarinet and Kouyate's balafon soaring like birds playing in a spring breeze. The rest of the album varies, sounding here like improvisational jazz with unusual instrumentation, and there like traditional West African tunes subtly updated. And then there's Etkin's unique Africanized version of Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing." I'm still marveling at the naturalness of this album, and how beautifully in sync the musicians are in integrating their diverse backgrounds into a seamless whole. Might as well just stick this in the CD player and leave it on "repeat" for the next month or two. It's that enjoyable.

[mp3] Oran Etkin: Nama
from the album Kelenia (street date June 9)

More Oran Etkin:
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