In a Room
This North American kora player (based in Yukon, Canada, no less!) is one of the rare non-African musicians who has taken an African instrument and made it his own, by learning the traditional songs, then admitting who he is and moving on. His previous albums moved in more popular jazz circles, but In a Room moves him into blues and Asian music modes as well, allowing for lots of interpretation and innovation, while still staying acoustic and sparse. The opening track, "Gerrard Street," is an exercise in musical restraint, carefully weaving the kora with a slide guitar, faintly iunderscored by bass and prepared piano, an instrument he uses in in subtle moves throughout the album. He does a gorgeous pseudo-West-African lilt on "Liminalism" and he leaps into a deep blues mode, trading licks with slide guitar, on "Maury's Blues."
Janke finds room for free jazz in the title track, weaving saxophone, resophonic guitar and layers of percussion around the strings. Blues, jazz, folk and, yes, African themes, all work their way into these 12 original tracks, each a fresh evaluation of the style it invokes. No new age world fusion wannabe, Janke makes his own music, honest and interesting and completely uncooperative with the pigeon-holers.
Recording available at cdRoots