JJ 08/91: Trevor Watts’ Moiré Music Drum Orchestra – Live In Latin America Vol I

Thirty years ago Simon Adams welcomed the Drum Orchestra's debut CD, which given its instrumentation was full of surprisingly delicate music. First published in Jazz Journal August 1991


For this new line-up of Moiré Music, Trevor Watts has dis­pensed with the traditional jazz instrumentation of keyboards and tenor saxophone and augmented Nana Tsiboe’s drums with three more African drummers. The result is as rhythmic as one would expect, but also surprisingly tune­ful. Not in the sense of structured melodies, but in the singing qual­ity of the drums, African violins and thumb piano, the interplay of voice and instrument, and the sin­uous, lengthy lines that Watts weaves across each piece.

For those expecting a barrage of percussion, this album will come as a surprise. The first track uses African violins, a cabassa (a dried gourd covered with a web of small beads) and a brekette (a bass drum worn over the shoul­der) to produce a light concoction of sound that hangs in the air like so many wisps of smoke.

The second is delicate as well, Watts playing soprano to complement the warm sounds of the thumb piano. The third piece is a block­buster, pitting Watts’ high register circular-breathing soprano against a solid rhythmic wall of drums and bass guitar. The final track is similar, this time featuring three brekettes and one talking drum, Watts sounding almost Arabic in his playing.

Watts first set up his Drum Orchestra in 1982, but this is the first time it has made it onto CD. Not before time, too, for this is an album of intelligent, powerful and at times hauntingly beautiful music. As ever with Moiré Music, highly recommended.

Live In Latin America Vol I 1-4 (62.49)
Trevor Watts (ss/as); Nana Tsiboe, Nee-Daku Patato (African drums/gunje/vn/v); Nana Appiah (African drums/v); Jojo Yates (African drums/twanga (thumb piano)/v); Liam Genockey (d/brekette); Colin Gibson (elb). (1) Car­acas, Venezuela, 2 Nov 1990; (2) Barquisimeto, Venezuela, 10 Nov 1990; (3) as (1), 4 Nov 1990; (4) Xalapa, Mexico, 27 Oct 1990.
(ARC CD06)