Saturday, April 17, 2010

Sankorfa: In Between Instruments

Sankorfa (group; formed 2004)
In Between Instruments (Greater London Records)

Michael Allen (drums, percussion)
Zands Duggan (congas, percussion)
Ruth Gomez (drums, percussion)
Scott Wilson (vibraphone, drums, marimbas)

Hailing from London, Sankorfa (African saying: looking backwards to move forward) is an incredible new quartet that uses percussion as the main thrust of their vision with wonderfully futuristic results. The band uses vibraphone, drums, congas, marimbas to create a beautiful blend of earthy rhythms that hold the listener in its sway and suggest a deep interest in exploration.

One of the first things you’ll noticed when listening to Sankorfa is the influence of minimalist composer Steve Reich. The emotional content, however, is a key differentiator for Sankorfa, and promises huge potential for future development. While each piece sounds like it originated from one member, the group’s sound definitely speaks to the potency of their collective vision.

Not unlike fellow London jazz experimentalists, Portico Quartet and Outside, Sankorfa explores Eastern and Western aesthetics with a classical approach, but combines it with a youthful spirit of adventure that I haven't heard in quite awhile.

On their new album In Between Instruments, Sankorfa explores sub-Asian and African rhythms. The opening tracks, “A Ok” and “Enough Already,” favorably remind me of the collaborations between legendary Punjabi singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and genre-hopping musician/producer Michael Brook, as well as drum legend Tony Allen.

The quartet also displays an appreciate for trance on the infectious “Inside The Oyster,” which starts innocuously but finds a drum ‘n’ bass groove at the three-quarter point that Roni Size might be proud of.

On “Great Ocean Road,” Sankorfa creates a samba-meets-minimalism vibe worthy of both Reich and vibraphone innovator Gary Burton, and, man, that’s a pretty cool combination.

“Kloshing” offers some magnificent ambient atmospherics with a hint of drum ‘n’ bass propulsion that pulls you along, while its seductive harmonics tug on the cerebral side of the groove.

Don’t think for a minute that it’s all percussion grooves and Eastern atmosphere going on here. My favorite track (this week at least) is the closing number, “Trouble So Hard.” Quiet and bluesy, it brings the journey to a peaceful finish, and leaves the listener wowed.

In Between Instruments is an album you will want to hear over and over again. I enjoyed discovering this record during the past week and highly recommend it. Visit Sankorfa's web site to learn more and if you really need more convincing, check out their latest non-album cut “7 Minutes (In The Hurt Locker)” available through the Sankorfa Myspace site as a FREE DOWNLOAD. In Between Instruments comes out on Monday. You won't be disappointed.

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