Friday, December 29, 2006

Herbie Hancock and Foday Musa Suso: Village Life

A personal favorite for a number of years, that I tracked down on ebay (and which will often fetch a premium unless you get lucky, which was what happened in my case).

The info:

1 Moon/Light 7:57
2 Ndan Ndan Nyaria 9:50
3 Early Warning 2:50
4 Kanatente 19:59

Herbie Hancock: Yamaha DX-1 Synthesizer, Yamaha RX-11 Digital Drum Machine, Producer
Foday Musa Suso: Kora, Talking Drum, Vocals
Bill Laswell: Producer

Recorded August 7-9, 1984 at CBS/Sony Studios, Shinao-Machi, Tokyo Japan

Released by Columbia Records, 1985
An absolutely gorgeous live-in-studio album with Hancock and Suso jamming together, weaving these tranquil, improvised tunes that defy easy categorization and must have given the marketing wonks fits. Of course, unlike Hancock's previous albums (Future Shock and Sound System), there was no recognizable hit - nothing to inspire break dancing or made-for-MTV videos. Not too surprisingly, it's been out of print for ages. Hancock and Suso had worked together before (on Sound System), and it's cool that the two musicians chose to explore their ideas outside of a pop or fusion context. It's a shame these two didn't pursue this collaboration further.

A more professional view from
This quiet, lovely record, in which the Gambian kora virtuoso Foday Musa Suso is given equal billing, was generally ignored when it came out, probably because it fit no one's preconceived idioms -- be they jazz, funk, MTV, or even world music. The only performers are Hancock on a detunable Yamaha DX-1 synthesizer and drum machine and Suso spinning his webs of delicate sound on the zither-like kora, vocalizing a bit and playing a talking drum -- all in real time in a Tokyo studio. The results are absolutely mesmerizing, with Herbie aligning himself perfectly within Suso's unusual, complex rhythmic conceptions and folk-like harmonies. On the 20-minute "Kanatente," Hancock does introduce some of his own advanced harmonic ideas, and he contrasts and interweaves them with Suso's deceptively simple lines in a splendid jam session that eventually ends in a dance that can only be described as Gambian funk. This music generates the same feeling of ecstatic well-being as an Indian raga -- and even hardcore jazz fans may find themselves seduced against their will.
There was a subsequent live album credited to Hancock and Suso (also out of print) that I'll upload a little later.

Download Village Life.