The Griots Speak: Destiny Calling

Brooklyn collaboration brings together straightahead and free players on Western, African and oriental instruments

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Daniel Carter describes this session as “an experiment designed to bring together two sets of musicians, one, consisting of straight ahead players, the other, of free improvisers.” There’s no real reason why it shouldn’t work and, indeed, it works very effectively, with no sense of compromise or strain, notwithstanding occasional clashes between Carter’s pitching and that of the more constrained keyboards.

The inclusion of several indigenous instruments is ultimately owed to the influence of Yusef Lateef, who was one of the first jazz musicians to explore Eastern sounds. His widow, Ayesha, gave a Himalayan drum and a rosewood flute to Charlie Apicella, who had been studying with Lateef, and the exploration of these led to this project.

For the curious who don’t already know, the doson ngoni is a traditional West African guitar, and the gralla is a Catalonian shawm, related to the oboe. The use of these and other instruments is well-integrated, with no sense of corny “exotica”. That said, the sonorities and textures are often not standard jazz ones, creating a slightly mysterious ambience. Sometimes, as on We’re All Here In Spirit, there’s a static quality that is hypnotic or monotonous depending on your mood or outlook) but there is that straightahead quality too: It’s Alright To Run really takes off and Sharks has a nice funky backbone (or cartilage, as we are referencing sharks) with Iron City coming to the fore, providing a satisfying finale to the album.

As you can see from the cover, the full designation is Charlie Apicella & Iron City Meet The Griots Speak: Destiny Calling. This appears to be more accurate than the personnel listing (which I have reproduced below as shown on the sleeve) as Apicella is a member of the established Iron City organ trio. 

Discography
The Sun Rises; Titan vs Sphinx; Jama’s Song / Malikli Melasha; We’re All Here In Spirit; It’s Alright To Run; Heard In Passing; You Know Where To Look; Where Do You Find These People? (43.03)
The Griots Speak: Daniel Carter (t, f, cl, s, p); Charlie Apicella (g, madal drum, Tibetan singing bowls); William Parker (b, doson ngoni, double reed gralla, gembiri, pocket t), Juma Sultan (pc); Iron City: Brad Whiteley (org); Austin Walker (d). Brooklyn, 13 November 2022.
OA2 Records OA2 22214