Jazz Institute of Chicago

Famoudou Don Moye/Tatsu Aoki: A Symphony Of Cities

amoudou Don Moye/Tatsu Aoki: A Symphony Of Cities

Percussionist Famoudou Don Moye's claim to fame comes from his long tenure with the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Although not a founding member, his contributions grew more substantial over the years as the last AEC performances in Chicago bore witness. Unfortunately, he has rarely been given the opportunity to record under his own name, which makes the release of A Symphony Of Cities all the more welcome.
For this session, he shares the leadership of the project with bassist Tatsu Aoki who is no stranger to the percussion world. He was introduced to music through the apprenticeship of the Japanese taiko drum and, lately, his various projects have had a strong percussion component. Moreover, he has the ability to use his bass as a percussion instrument, as showcased on the closing piece, "Soba Soba," where his bass blends perfectly with Moye's congas.

Most pieces are conceived as long improvisations such as the 24-minute epic "Afro Asian Reflections," but they do offer so much variety that monotony never sets in. Relying on a wide array of percussion and other unfamiliar instruments, Moye and Aoki embark on a journey to explore colors and space, and create evolving "soundscapes." At times, Moye goes back to the more conventional drum kit to add intensity and punch.

On two pieces, saxophonist Francis Wong and flautist/whistler Joel Brandon join in. While the two musicians' styles are miles apart, their pairing is well balanced with Brandon's soulfulness offsetting Wong's more visceral and gruff sound, which does not preclude some osmosis as in the opening segment of "TokyoMad Tonal Efficiency."

The highlight is arguably "Ode to Wilbur Ware" where, in particular, Aoki displays his own singularity and never mimics the late bassist. This is one more piece of evidence that free-jazz musicians despite their iconoclastic inclination have a great knowledge and respect for the tradition and their elders.

Finally, one should single out the multi-talented Bradley Parker-Sparrow for capturing every detail of this session and making of A Symphony of Cities an aural experience not to be missed.—Alain Drouot

Available on Southport/Asian Improv Records at www.chicagosound.com.