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"Drifting" - 2004

1  Blue Bird   05:02
2  Grinnin'In Your Face   05:04
3  Salama   05:36
4 T-Bone Shuffle   05:55
5  One Love   07:01
6  Gumbo No.1   07:25
7  Big Boss Man   08:09
8  The Gift   06:24
9  Rom Full Of Mirrors   10:34

“Never change a winning team“ – this truism from the world of sports could well be applied to DRIFTING, the fourth release by Canada’s blues/roots/world trio Tri-Continental on TRADITION & MODERNE. Just like the album’s predecessor “Let’s Play”, DRIFTING was recorded in Germany and for their new recording project the trio again invited Indian percussion master Ramesh Shotham to participate. Following his stints with artists and ensembles as diverse as Karnataka College of Percussion, Dissidenten, Embryo, Carla Bley and Rabi Abou-Khalil, Ramesh Shotham now seems to be a regular guest of Lester Quitzau, Bill Bourne and Madagaskar Slim.

“DRIFTING” – this classic term from the world of blues lyrics should not be taken as an indication for indecision, however. Quite the opposite is true, in fact. Tri-Continental came up with a special plan for recording their fourth album. They invited a small audience of friends and fans to one of their favorite recording locations - the Alien Style Studio in Bremen/Germany - and proceeded to capture nine new songs on tape. All performed on one single evening and combining the directness and spontaneity of a live performance with the technical advantages of a professional studio environment.

The concept of democracy is still very much at the heart of the band’s philosophy on DRIFTING. Two new songs by Bourne and Quitzau each, one new original song by Slim and a bunch of covers that stand as a testament to the band’s great love for the tradition and their respective influences. The names of Son House, Bob Marley, Willie Dixon, Jimmy Reed, Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix must be mentioned in this context. But let’s start at the beginning:

DRIFTING starts off with a new tune by Bill Bourne: “Blue Bird”, one of his trademark ballads featuring a distinctive vocal delivery and a seductive kind of folky melody, framed by the electric guitar stylings of his fellow band members. Lester Quitzau’s adaption of a country blues classic by Son House is next: “Grinning in Your Face”. The new arrangement features one of Quitzau’s special talents: combining a pared-down groove with a bunch of slide licks that show his controlled mastery of the technique. Madagaskar Slim is featured next on “Salama”, one of his original tunes. Played in typical malegassy fashion, Slim’s fingerpicking is a marvel still and the band establishes a great and even danceable groove. An excellent example of Tri-Continental’s capacity of blending their various styles and techniques into a new whole that sounds organic and relaxed.

The mood remains upbeat on “T-Bone Shuffle”. All three players know their share of blues licks and here everyone has a chance to present a couple of them. Ramesh Shotham is a solid time-keeper on this one, too. A visit with the rich catalog of classics written by Bob Marley follows: “One Love” . But the song is taken out of the rhythmic context of reggae and gently embedded into a web of quite melodic acoustic/electric guitar sounds instead. Obviously, it helps that all three of them are excellent improvisors as well. This talent is especially valuable on extended pieces like Quitzau’s “Gumbo Nr. 1”. It’s a song without words that combines elements of blues, jazz and world music in a very unique kind of way: an extended intro on slide guitar leads into a very charming guitar theme that is taken through various chord and tempo changes before it melts into a stretch of collective improvisation. In due time, the song is being brought back to base and the journey ends.

Willie Dixon’s “Big Boss Man” follows. One of the band’s character traits when it comes to covers is that they never just stick with the original. Their version of the Chicago Blues classic still features Jimmy Reed’s original guitar riff, but adds a healthy dose of Indian percussion including an excellent solo by Ramesh as well. A second original tune by Bill Bourne is next: “The Gift”. The three guitars and percussion establish a very transparent aural fundament for Bourne’s kind of dark storytelling. The general effect is one of magical attraction and suggestive power.

A final stroke of genius concludes the album: the fusing of music by Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix. It’s a well-known fact that Miles and Hendrix had been meaning to work together, a plan that was sabotaged by Jimi’s untimely passing. In 2004, Tri-Continental have taken Hendrix’s “Room Full of Mirrors” and added to it the musical aura of Miles’ eighties’ classic “Tutu”. The fact that the end result hangs together so hauntingly well may well be taken as proof of the fact that there was a time, when the respective musical worlds of these two legends were not so far apart after all.

And so DRIFTING has turned into a very coherent whole featuring a striking and dense atmosphere. But that’s one of the things to be expected from the folks in Tri-Continental. A successful recording project in a special setting presenting a relaxed evening of new music for friends and fans. Never change a winning team, indeed.