Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng Afrijazz
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Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng
Innova (

cd cover Recorded at Brown University on the western edge of the Atlantic, but very much in the Ghanaian vein of its composer, Afrijazz is percussionist Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng's shout-out to the inspirational spirits of Monk, Randy Weston, Max Roach, Anthony Braxton, Chief Bey and a host of kindred others. Kwaku brings together the sounds of his native land with African-Brazilian, Jamaican and African American strains, in an imaginative recording whose genius reveals its embedded subtleties only gradually. "Greetings," the opening track, recalls Max Roach's percussion ensemble experiments of the early 1980s (like the classic Mboom), as does "Ghana Gumbo," whose fuzzy tones achieve an aural denseness that mesmerizes as it enthralls. "Message" broadcasts the lessons of the African ancestors from Brazil, while Kwaku's solo on "Oprenten #6" is a case study in the mastery of talking-percussion techniques.

cd cover He completely remakes "Round Midnight," a spare version wherein the talking drum entwines with Paul Austerlitz's bass clarinet to reveal the heart and soul of Monk's classic, heard anew. "Fine Fine Baby" gives a good-natured, syncopated ribbing to all who think that they know more than their parents and elders, and "Worship" offers testimony to the profound inspiration Kwaku derived from attending a Maroon drumming session in the escaped-slave stronghold of Jamaica's Blue Mountains. Things get brass-and-woodwind on the outro, "Thank You" (appropriately enough a nod to all the musician's many inspirations, with many subtly suggestive passages). One of a kind, this one, a recording that unfolds one well-paced beat at a time, the sturdy percussive foundation of an enduring piece of work. - Michael Stone

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Audio: "Message" composed KK Obeng, (c)(p)2003 Innova Recordings
Used with their kind permission

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