Jamming on Common Ground: Idan Raichel and Vieux Farka Touré

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Wednesday April 04, 2012

from The Wall Street Journal

Jamming on Common Ground
By Jim Fusilli

When Israeli pop superstar Idan Raichel ran into Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré in a Berlin airport in 2008, it was as if a destiny were fulfilled. A gifted pianist, Mr. Raichel is a proponent of African music and an admirer of Mr. Touré as well as Mr. Touré’s father, the late Ali Farka Touré. At the time, the younger Mr. Touré was entering the global marketplace via his self-titled debut album. The two men pledged to play together.

Two years later, they did: Mr. Raichel joined Mr. Touré’s band on stage at the Tel Aviv Opera House; the next day, they gathered in a nearby recording studio and made what became “The Tel Aviv Session” (Cumbancha), the just-released disc by the Touré-Raichel Collective. Culled from a lengthy jam session that also included Israeli bassist Yossi Fine, who produced Mr. Touré’s second solo album, and Malian percussionist Souleymane Kane, the deeply affecting, at times hypnotic album rises from simmering grooves enriched by Mr. Touré’s stinging solos on acoustic and electric guitars and Mr. Raichel’s cascading piano. It’s not so much a cross-cultural exercise as an exploration of common ground.

The heart of “The Tel Aviv Session” is its impromptu feel. The disc’s programming gives listeners a sense of what it was like in the recording studio: In the opening numbers, “Azawade” and “Bamba,” the lead musicians tread gingerly, as if looking for the right moment to strike. But by the time Mr. Raichel kicks off the third track, “Experience,” there’s a sense that they’re on solid footing. The pianist lays down a modal groove so assertive that it seems a challenge to Mr. Touré, who responds with fiery confidence.

“It came out of the heart,” Mr. Touré said by phone. “It was entirely a jam session and at the time I thought that’s all it was. We were having an exchange. But Idan said, ‘There’s an album here.’”

“We played for three hours,” Mr. Raichel said in a separate phone conversation. “I knew there was a diamond hidden in those three hours.”

Read the full article here