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A Thoughtful, Pensive Collaboration from Ballaké Sissoko and Vincent Segal

An elegant collection of mostly duo performances, the aptly titled Chamber Music by Malian kora virtuoso Ballaké Sissoko and enterprising French cellist Vincent Segal is a thoughtfully paced, generous collaboration. It is most likely composed all the way through, yet has a quietly inspired improvisational feel, as the two musicians trade off themes, lead melodies and basslines. Sometimes a bright kora theme will be transposed to the cello’s lower registers, other times they’ll switch a pizzicato cello bassline to the kora. The motifs here are very terse: Sissoko plays nimble, intricately twining lines rather than indulging in lickety-split displays of speed, while the cello is employed more frequently for rhythm than for atmospherics. With the lead lines mostly carried by the kora, this has much more of a Malian feel than a European one, although a couple of Segal compositions – particularly the marvelously pensive Histoire de Molly, with its eerie cello arpeggios – introduce elements of the baroque. This is an excellent headphone album, equally effective as late-night wind-down music.

The title track is a sort of synopsis of the whole album, a stately, swaying groove where both musicians echo each other, the kora introduces a dance and then turns it over to the cello – and then Sissoko’s solo, rather than being a crescendo, brings it down again. The next track is hypnotic and circular – imagine this as played by an electric band and you’d have Afrobeat. The following composition, by Sissoko, is basically a canon, featuring a rippling, twinkling balafon solo from Fassery Diabate. The album concludes with a wistful, 6/8 ballad, a suspensefully cinematic theme that kicks off with Indian raga influences, and a long, pensive, dynamically-charged overture. Throughout the album, the subtle, conversational interplay between the two musicians is full of unexpected twists and turns, a seemingly endless series of gently surprising ideas.

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December 25, 2010 Posted by | avant garde music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment