“Kora Jazz Trio Pt 3”
Well, the feedback on Closet Classics has been pretty good so far and it looks like it’s going to be around for a while. We would love to have more contributions from our readers, so do let us know about your favourite Closet Classic, why you like it and any memories it has for you. We’ve been asking our favourite bands and musicians to tell us about their CCs and we’re hoping to have some of those live fairly soon.
Meanwhile, we have our first reader contribution from Klare Stephens who loves “Kora Jazz Trio Pt 3”, which is so closet that there aren’t any Spotify links, but we have managed to locate a few YouTube links.
Kora Jazz Trio are Abdoulaye Diabate, Djeli Moussa and Moussa Cissoko and were formed in France. Djeli Moussa, the kora player comes from a long line of Griots, (African, in this case Guinean, troubadours) but with no liner notes or other information, biogs are hard to give other than that the pianist and percussionist originally hail from Senegal. To the uninitiated, the kora is the African cousin to both the guitar and harp and its rich instrumentation and has been played for centuries. It seems fitting that the Afro-American style of music, Jazz should here be played with such a traditional instrument, it seems bizarre that it has not been recorded like this before to my knowledge.
Of course African Jazz has been around and recorded for decades but usually with western instrumentation. Moussa is a true original adapting his kora to 32 strings instead of the usual 21, giving it an even greater harp like range and magical sound; and on this album he also plays guitar on some tracks. My initial concerns that the kora would compete for lyrical space with the piano were easily overcome, whether the kora is the natural complement to the piano or the product of its player’s harmony in this trio, I suspect the answer is both. The hand drums ground the music perfectly as well as completing the traditional African sound. Each player is given room to solo as is usual with a Jazz trio and the kora also makes a great instrument to accompany the others. Production values are clean and crisp but I can’t help fancying them live rather than live in a Parisien studio as this album is.
My stand out tracks are the instrumentals ‘Xam-Xam’ , ‘La Musse’ and ‘Chan Chan’ , unfettered by vocals the music can really fly and the vocal tracks alternate with instrumentals on the disc. The vocals as well as distracting one from the beautiful musical sound are uninspiring whether it is because I’m unaware of their content, I think it’s more because I’m unaroused by the emotional frequency and vocal sound; however this is a great collection overall. On their first CDs, Kora Jazz Trio Pt 1 (2003) and Part2 (2005), they stayed closer to American Jazz with compositions from the likes of Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk, where the kora takes the brass part, but on their third album they are confident enough to stride out with mainly home grown tunes although, ‘Chan-chan’ written by Francisco Repilado comes from the fine stream of Latin Jazz.
All the songs on this album are uplifting and upbeat and left me with the conundrum of whether I should file them under the genres of Jazz, African or Dance music, in the end I settled for World Fusion but these really are the roots of Jazz with the instruments it would have been originally played on. Perfect for early morning coffee and equally good with late night wine, Kora Jazz Trio are a band to track down and I suspect to see them live, judging from the limited YouTube footage, would be a musical treat.