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World Jazz

Friday the 13th is a day sometimes associated with bad luck, evil spirits and danger. At Joe’s Pub on Friday May 13th, there were definitely strong spirits. However, they were of the positive variety. Jack DeJohnette was celebrating the Official Label Launch Party of his new, independent record label, Golden Beams Productions. "Music in the Key of OM" was Jack’s first release on the label and focuses on the healing powers of meditation. The second release, "Music From The Hearts of the Masters," was the focal point of the evening’s festivities. The music featured Jack teaming up with the Gambian griot, composer, and kora master Foday Musa Suso. Longtime DeJohnette collaborator Jerome Harris played bass and percussion throughout this monumental evening. (Golden Beams Productions will be releasing a remix compilation and an album from DeJohnette and Don Alias entitled "Welcome Blessing.")

Before the music began, Jack addressed the audience by saying "I’m a little bit nervous because I have never done this before but I’m excited." He then thanked his daughter for the design of his website and how fortunate he was to have such a creative person in his family. Next he thanked his sound man and son-in-law, who also does mixing for Jack’s recordings. Then he thanked his wife, whom he said is always three years ahead of him. He was particularly grateful for her support and encouragement throughout the years, especially for the new project, Golden Beams Productions.

From the moment the music began, the rapport between DeJohnette and Suso was amazing. Listeners experienced a rare treat. The second selection, written by Suso, was the electric "Worldwide Funk." Foday had 13 different pedals hooked up to his kora and used them liberally on this infectious, heavily synthesized tune. "Moon/Light," a track fans may be familiar with from the Herbie Hancock record "Village Life," which features Foday, followed. The kora master introduced this song by talking about growing up in Gambia in a very small village with no electricity. He translated the lyrics and spoke of the inspiration for the song by saying when the moon was bright, the children would stay up very late into the night playing games, as would the adults. His kora playing and his voice were mesmerizing. Multi-instrumentalist Jack DeJohnette accompanied Foday at the piano for this world music classic.

"Mountain Love Dance" is another great selection. DeJohnette used mallets to pound out the rhythm and Muso was using his pedals to create an almost steel pan-like sound through his kora. Jerome Harris played three different sized tambourines with a drumstick. Meanwhile, Jack delved deeper and deeper into the groove, adding rhythmic explosions, inspiring Muso’s kora playing. Foday’s wonderful melodies had the same effect on DeJohnette. The symbiotic relationship between the two increased in intensity, creating a trancelike feel until the music stopped on a dime. The ending was an exact science.

Foday introduced the next tune by talking about how he missed the Mukula Market in Africa. Jerome Harris and DeJohnette provided backup vocals for lead vocalist Muso. Extremely rhythmic and danceable, this one had the house movin’. "Rose Garden" featured a beautiful kora introduction and Harris on hand percussion. Jack started on the cymbals and then went back to the mallets.

A DeJohnette solo opened the final selection, "Voice of Kodrus." Muso's electronic pedal tones sounded a bit like the guitar work of Adrian Belew. Harris’ bass lines were sublime and as he soloed his interaction with Jack was tight. Fuso came back in with a repetitive pattern, creating an intricate weave of music between these three heavyweights. A solid finale to this spectacular evening.

Foday’s kora playing is deep, spiritual. His voice is equally remarkable, reminding me of Mali sensation Salif Keita. A chance to see him with Jack DeJohnette was a true pleasure. Enjoy their new release, "Music From the Hearts of the Masters," on Jack’s new label Golden Beams Productions. The result from two of the worlds’ true musical geniuses is a joy to those who take the journey.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Jack DeJohnette
  • Concert Date: 5/13/2005
  • Subtitle: Jack DeJohnette/Foday Musa Suso
  • Venue: Joe's Pub
  • City State Country: New York, New York, USA
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