New Reviews: January 21, 2004

Reviews by Tom Orr

Raquy Danziger
Raquy Music

I was previously only aware of Raquy Danziger through her writings in Drum magazine regarding the art of Arabic percussion. One listen to this disc shows what qualifies her to impart knowledge on such a subject. She's a dynamite player, not only on the Middle Eastern dumbeck, riq, bendir and daff drums, but also several bowed instruments from the same region. Born into a musical family and having spent considerable time studying the rhythms of the Arabic world, it's only in the last five years that Danziger has really been tearing it up as a recording, performing, accompanying and teaching artist. Dust is laced with intricate percussion rhythms, their twisting and turning textures rooted in Turkey, Iran, Greece and elsewhere. Danziger herself is the primary instrumentalist, and it is when she is the focus that the disc really strikes gold. Though her creative partner Liron Peled is also a multi-instrumentalist, his contributions are less impressive. His well-meaning but sometimes intrusive work on guitars, bass, drum set and synthesizer add up to a few too many Led Zeppelin-ish moments that tend to blow the traditional edge of the album out of the water. But the majority of Dust really crackles. It's inventively quirky, genuine and played with passion. Percussionists and Middle Eastern music fans will savor and cherish it.

Yusef Lateef and Adam Rudolph's Go: Organic Orchestra
In the Garden
Meta/YAL (008, 2003)

Truly great musicians reserve the right to mess with your mind a bit. Octogenarian sax and flute legend Yusef Lateef and relentlessly innovative percussionist Adam Rudolph are masters of music that can both fit and stubbornly resist categorization. This is the third album they've presided over as leaders of the Go: Organic Orchestra, continuing their fusing of modern orchestral sophistication with musical structures and rhythms from all over the earth. The pieces on the double disc mix set parameters with a uniquely emphatic sense of improvisation. Scene-setting ambient sounds come, go and come again, bridging oddly melodic but often haunting transitions into the whole 22-piece bunch playing work-in-progress-like compositions that are equal parts Africa, Europe and Asia. There's a bright, hopeful sense conveyed in the music, a feeling of cultures coming together and feeding off each other's inspirations. The listener likewise gets a sense of being in on something special- an exploration of musical discovery that's not always smooth going but leads to great rewards. Not surprisingly, given Lateef's and Rudolph's backgrounds, wind and percussion instruments make the vast majority of sounds heard here. Those elements have always been a good match in any kind of music, and the sometimes tentative, sometimes fully realized utilizing of them in this bold context is revelatory on many levels of sonic compatability. As is the case with most orchestral recordings, the pieces tend toward long and complex. The blend of musical passages and unconventional dabblings creates an oddly beautiful and ritualistic listening experience, best enjoyed with minimal distractions. Recommended for fans of experimental or fusion music and anyone with an ear for the truly eclectic.

Tom Orr is a Southern California-based freelance writer, actor, percussionist, 9 to 5-er, husband, daddy, and aspiring deep thinker. He acquires more music than he has time to listen to, and feels the only solution is to acquire even more.