Well if I am to be perfectly honest I must admit that I was only vaguely familiar with Ben Allison and his work before I reviewed this CD. It has been my loss.
New York City based Ben Allison is perhaps best known as the founder of the Jazz Composers Collective (JCC.) The JCC is a musician run, nonprofit dedicated to helping artists express themselves through the development and exploration of new music. He has also performed throughout the world and appeared on over 25 albums in addition to having written extensively for music, film and radio.
Allison has on his resume 5 recordings as leader with four of the five being recorded on the Palmetto Label. Out of the nine tracks on Peace Pipe seven are Allison originals. The other two cuts he has chosen to include are Dakan
composed by Mamadou Diabate, the Kora master (we will get to that in a moment) and a piece called Goin' Back
, written by one of Allison's favorite composers, Neil Young.
The music on the CD, much of it commissioned by The Chamber Music America's New Works; Creation and Presentation Program is full of feeling and texture. I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of Mamdou. As mentioned above, Diabate is a Kora master (I told you I would get back to that.) For those who don't know what a Kora is, I will save you the trouble of looking it up, as I had to. A Kora is a 21 or 22 string instrument made out of a gourd calabash with a hardwood post or neck. It is kind of a Frankensteinish mix of a harp, guitar and sitar.
I really liked the cut Slap Happy
with the focal point being, as the name alludes to, the hand slapping of instruments. Third Rail
is inspired by the New York City subway system and Duke Ellington. Finally, if you want to hear the Kora, there is a fabulous solo on Dakan
by Mamadou as well as solos by Allison and Blake. Dakan by the way as Mamadou explains on the liner notes means destiny in Mandika.
Allison has recently been named one of the "25 rising stars for the future" and with Peace Pipe he certainly does not let down. I like the CD and highly recommend it. Check it out!