02 December 2007

Out of Africa

Simon Milman returned last Friday with project and a capable trio to carry it out. This was Bamako 3. B3 is an acoustic trio investigating African music and its influence, and how it has changed to produce the blues and jazz that we know. Simon called it an “African journey”. I was surprised to find it pretty folky and also to hear the banjo appear. I was little taken aback by a lack of drums, although there was strong and insistent rhythm. I wasn’t surprised to hear pretty clear hints of the musics we know as black and American. The trio started with a long, unison melody by all players, and finished in a similar vein. In between were several originals including two ragtime tunes. One (Furniture polish crawl) had Simon playing the melody with a slide on his acoustic bass guitar. The other (Gut bucket rag) started with the long unison melody and featured Jess playing a meditative solo against a drone backing. No more signifying was another original; its title amongst the band members (Led Zeppelin) was surprisingly apt and reminiscent of early and heavily blues-influenced Zep. By this time, Simon had changed from acoustic bass guitar to banjo. They also played several tunes by Ali Farka Touré. I missed the title of the earlier one, but it was simple and sweet and lyrical. The later one was City groove, which was again very melodic. AFT is a Malian playing at the “intersection of traditional Malian music and its North American cousin, the blues”, and the Malian tradition is the “DNA of the blues” (Wikipedia, article on Ali Farka Touré, 2 Dec 2007). Clearly stating the African descent theme, there was a 1932 blues tune by Skip James with vocals by Jess. The relationship was a bit more obscure with a tune from Tuva . Tuva is a republic in the south of Siberia and is noted for throat singing. Arne performed the strange, otherworldy singing style. B3 were called upon to perform an unexpected encore. Arne came to the rescue with an authentic southern blues number on vocals and guitar, I wish I was a catfish. It was appropriate as a reminder of the connections the band was seeking on the night. Bamako 3 are Simon Milman (acoustic bass guitar, banjo), Jess Green (guitar, vocals), Arne Hanna (guitar, vocals).

BTW, this was my first visit to the Folkus Room. It's mostly a folk venue and not too salubrious as a club venue, but it's got one impressive sound system!

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