"Lets Play" - 2003
"LETíS PLAY" ó the title of Tri-Continentalís third album for TRADITION & MODERNE is a simple expression but it carries a fair amount of determination. The team of Madagascar Slim, Bill Bourne and Lester Quitzau is back with a new studio recording at long last. Itís an album that has been highly anticipated after the exciting success of their wonderful debut album and the live double that followed in the fall of 2001.
"LETíS PLAY" was recorded in the summer of 2002 in Bremen/Germany. Due to the fact that the group is so well-received in continental Europe, one is tempted to modify the wordplay to "Four-Continental", but in strictly musical terms, these guys still deal in a combination of sounds coming from Africa, North American and the Celtic aspects of the folk tradition. There has never been a dogmatic approach when it comes to mixing the different musical strands of the Tri-Continental sound. Musical boundaries are still fluent and everybody influences each other in more than one way or direction.
Madagaskar Slim: Ben Randriamananjara was born in 1956 and hails from Madagascar. He seems to be walking a borderline between various musical worlds. Thereís the highly complex acoustic music of his home country that has been made popular by players like the great DíGary, and thereís the electric blues world with influences ranging from Albert King and Freddie King to Jimi Hendrix. Malegassy roots music meets modern blues. Itís always an exciting fusion Slim comes up with and heís already won a Canadian JUNO award for his solo album "Omnisource".
Bill Bourne: the guy with the top hat was born in 1954 and is a part of the Canadian and Celtic folk and singer/songwriter tradition. Bourne has released a number of great solo recordings, too, and his most recent solo effort "Sallyís Dream" from 1999 has been decorated with a JUNO as well. Not only is he a striking singer and excellent guitar-player in his own right, heís also a charismatic stage presence. Bourne is a roots music artist through and through and his personal style combines folk, country and bluegrass with a lot of exotic stuff thrown in for good measure. He never resorts to straight traditionalism.
Lester Quitzau: the Canadian bluesman from Edmonton (born in 1964) is one of the most sensitive and intense slide players around and his solo work has been subject of the JUNO academyís attention as well. His blues combines many different aspects, as heís been studying countryblues masters like Son House as well as the aesthetics of jazz modernists like Bill Frisell. Quitzau has one foot in Mississippi Fred McDowellís camp and the other is firmly situated in Jimi Hendrix territory. This versatility not only makes him one of the most open-minded blues stylists, heís also showing the way into a very interesting future for the blues.
The line-up for "LETíS PLAY" has been embellished by the inclusion of a very special guest: Indian percussionist Ramesh Shotham. This Cologne resident provides his special brand of vocal and manual percussion and adds to the groupís groove in a significant kind of way. Heís also a great rhythmic colorist and has been a very in demand player with artists like Karnataka College of Percussion, Dissidenten, Embryo, Carla Bley, or Rabi Abou-Khalil Ramesh Shotham is a solo artist in his own right as well.
The album features a very democratic split of song credits, with three songs each by Slim, Bourne and Quitzau and a Lennon/McCartney cover on top: "With A Little Help From My Friends" symbolizes the spirit of brotherhood and democracy that is at the core of this music.
Hilalao ó Letís Play (Madagascar Slim)
The albumís title track was written by Madagascar Slim and is a great example of the rhythmic complexity of malegassy music. It also serves as a reminder of the power of these guysí combined harmony vocals. Note Ramesh Shothamís vocal percussion. (and donít give up trying to find the "one" ó just keep counting....)
Here And Gone (Lester Quitzau)
An example of Quitzauís spiritual blues side that harks back to the old masters from the worlds of countryblues, folkblues and gospel. Itís a mysterious, between-the-worlds, atmosphere that runs through this song. It also features a middle part that seems to come straight out of Africa.
Looking For Love (Bill Bourne)
Vague echoes of flamenco music mixed with "salegy" licks in 6/8 time ó an example of the always changing mix of styles that is the TriC sound. The songís lyric seems to identify Bill Bourne as a nice kind of contemporary hippie idealist. Itís a hypnotic vocal duet by Slim and Bourne, too.
Kapoy (Madagascar Slim)
Madagascar Slim mostly plays an amplified Godin nylon string guitar on this record, adding to the density of the groupís acoustic sound. The second "Salegy" composition of his serves as proof of this statement and again includes some rhythmic twists and turns that are highly sophisticated.
With A Little Help From My Friends (Lennon/McCartney)
Everybody knows this one, the second track off of the Beatlesí "Sgt. Pepper" album, and the song that was elevated to anthemic rock status by Joe Cocker a long time ago. Here the song is stripped from all bombast, a Jefferson Airplane quote is thrown in, and the whole interpretation reinstates a little of the songís innocent "summer-of-love" charm. In the beginning, it was only meant to be Pepperís "Ringo song" after all...
Keep On Walking (Lester Quitzau)
Quitzauís second blues statement on the album is concerned with loss and determination. The goal is to carry on ó a Zen-like quality. "Walking your blues" ó apparently still a good way to confront lifeís troubles and turmoils for Quitzau, who plays a great Dobro on this track and who can count on some wonderful vocal harmonies supporting his lead.
Little Green Men (Bill Bourne)
Bill Bourne in his favorite role as storyteller and troubadour. Slim contributes some "outer space" electric guitar playing.
Miss Mae (Lester Quitzau)
A song about longing and desire. Miss Mae is the object of Quitzauís affection and the song is in a folkblues style that adds some harmonic and melodic extras. Musically, that makes it a very exciting and in many ways typical Tri-Continental walk across borders.
Andeha (Madagascar Slim)
The third song "Slim" came up for this album has a strong and gentle groove thatís like a soft carpet for the very strong and melodic guitar arrangement. The rhythm also beds the singersí voices comfortably and the song includes a fair amount of improvisation.
Tibetian Rose (Bill Bourne)
A mystic instrumental piece by Bourne provides a haunting ending to the album and listeners are carried away to some exotic place of great sonic attraction. At the same time, however, you get the sense that itís really the blues that is the soul of Tri-Continental. No matter what combination of musical styles they may deal in, the music is nurtured by a universal sense of blues feeling. It runs through this music like a river, no matter who may have written the song.