I really looked forward to hearing this CD as I had read perplexed reviews, which naturally really perked my interest. I wasn't disappointed. This music is the atomic bomb needed to obliterate the mind numbing stolidness of standard minimalism and the staid grooves of status quo jazz. And that explosion is coming from Africa.
Lukas Ligeti has magically meshed African music with jazz/pop, with the cerebral music of his Dad, Ligeti Sr., and Xenakis. His insane playing and writing is somewhere in the mid-Atlantic, torn between 3 continents, like some gangster/pirate, unafraid to plunder any culture, lock, stock, and barrel. But it is not just some post-modern goulash; he's asking super intellectual questions with this language. When does rhythm become texture? When is texture melody? When is timbre melody or rhythm?
For example, `On pattern time', it's like being in the middle of a Xenakis orchestra piece while Charles Ives is crashing his Balafon marching bands into each other. Around the 3 minute mark emerges more recognizable jazz grooves but never overbearing. Ligeti Junior's drumming throughout would make his dad very proud in its refinement and sheer good taste. No one no one, one one, overplays, especially the ultra cool, sax player , Gianni Gebbio. This is followed by a very Jacoesque bass riff (Michael Manning)with seriously fast, highly articulated bass playing (It's funny how a fretless bass's buzz blends with balafon and prepared piano). <Speaking of prepared piano and Balafon , Benoit Delbecq and Aly Keita are seriously talented: timbrally and rhythmically>. Anyway, we arrive in a statement/ response section, followed by gamelan patterns (????), which ends in all the players playing patterned sequences in quasi unison while Ligeti scrambles it up with more intensely metered playing on top. This music is Nirvana for those addicted to multi-layered rhythms. It's a kind of constant deep undercurrent tension like the subtle shifting of tectonic plates--and hopefully this kind of music will replace the well worn grooves of ALL improvised music. Please!!!
The next piece `timelessness' recalls the old African proverb. `If Reich was African his music would be better, and he would be poorer'. The delicacy of this music is astounding---like a plague of locusts eating into the carcass of western music theory. There is something almost environmental going on---it's a landscape of danger, beauty, new life and horrible death. A very light atonal piano solo briefly intrudes on the primitivism---then just as easily departs, likes A flight from Nairobi with a stop over in Vienna.
In the fourth piece `from the ground up' starts with serious African drum and bass with rock solid nifty metering. Lukas's drumming is again amazing. He jumps from style to style like lighting; throwing an om-pah-pah measure, a pop groove measure, 4 on the floor disco, jazz groove, then back to Africa. But this is not post-modern hackwork--it's deeply integrated, second nature, music making.
The fifth cut' Translucent dusk' is kind of African groove music answer to Bartok or Crumb night music. It's intensely environmental-- sounding like it was recorded on the deserts of Africa. Flies are buzzing all around, a goat on the fire, and tectonic plate ants are in my pants. Lucas is always in the back of this cross-rhythm barrage, like some sage philosopher making national geographic drum set commentary. The transitions to Ligeti sr.'s music are seamless, creepy, and astounding.
On the sixth cut `a hook in the sky' a Beethoven-like motiv is the rhythmic head and a great unifier. The most delicate and hypnotizing cross rhythms ensue---don't take drugs while listening!!! --a kind of 3D shifting takes place in the brain--listener's sanity at risk!!. Hopefully these are drum overdubs, because if not, Lucas `s brain and right and left arm is going to need some serious surgery after recording. I'm in a seizure as we speak.
Finally the 7th piece,' Tunnels alight' is more of a free improv piece with none of the obvious compositional restrictions that gave such restraint to the previous playing. It is the only disappointment on what is sure to be one of the great records this year. As I put all my minimalist and jazz CDs in the compactor, a shout-out to all jazz 101 coordinators: this is core curriculum listening for all jazz students starting this September, 2011. Innova--print more copies.