HEI- oer Losr m AUSTIN
‘3 .t f Drive south out of Dallas, let the mirrored glass monoliths slide down over the horizon and watch the road stretch bright and straight and ﬂat for the couple of easy hours down to Austin. Turn the radio on and you’ll certainly get to hear Asleep At The Wheel. the .most successful group to come out of that little Texas city bursting with music.
Tex—Mex accordion. bluegrass. old-timey. western swing, country blues — it's all in there with mainstreamjazz, rock outﬁts, folk singers and symphony orchestras. There‘s a tremendous amount of talent in that town. So it’s not too surprising to note that most of the performers in the Mayfest US Country Music Season come not from Nashville but from. yup, Austin.
it‘s their sheer musicality that makes Asleep At The Wheel's s0phisticated version of Texas Swing so absorbing. interesting. enjoyable and. dammit. fun. In general. I’m as fond of country music as the Kennedys are ofguns. but this band will bring a smile to the most conﬁrmed countryphobe. with its thoughtful arrangements. amusing songs. ﬂuent solos, jazzy chordings and very relaxed but tight playing.
Another big band with dance roots and a similarly reﬁned sensibility is Don McAlister Jr‘s Cowboy Jazz Revue. while dustbowl ballads and the legacy of Woody Guthrie focused in a simple but powerful directness gives a measure of the different slant to ex-Nighthawks singer Jimmy Lafave. Two other great contemporary country musicians. songwriters and singers — Stephen Bruton, who has picked with Willie Nelson and Bonnie Raitt. and Will Sexton. who came to country through blues and rock — round off Mayfest's quality Austin showcase. (Norman Chalmers)
Asleep At The Wheel play The Beck '3' Ten! on Sat 2/. All others play at The Ferry: Steve Bram/t on Sat 7, Don Mr'Alister's Cow/my Jazz Revue on Fri [3, Jimmy Iujave on Sun [5 and Will Sean m1 Malt /().
Kenny Mathieson considers the electriﬁcation of Chick Corea.
Chick Corea ﬁrst began to dabble with electronic keyboards during the sessions for Miles Davis's Filles (1e Kilimanjaro album back in 1968. Already established as a very promising acoustic jazz pianist. he was happy to expand that initial experiment through a succession of bands. including further sessions with Miles, his early 70s fusion outﬁt Return To Forever. and. since I985. his high- powered Elektric Band.
While that prominence in the fusion ﬁeld has helped ﬁnd Corea an audience beyond the bounds of the jazz world. he has also continued to build on his standing as one of the most sought-after acoustic jazz performers. working in settings from solo piano and duets through to sextet. Throw in the occasional performance of music by Bach or Scriabin, and his own ventures into contemporary composition, and what emerges is an extraordinarily versatile musician.
Many jazz fans. however. weaned on his duets or his superb acoustic tn'os. ﬁnd the high-tech fusion ofthe Elektric Band difﬁcult to reconcile with Corea‘s jazz roots. If the pianist himself recognises that there may be a dichotomy, he remains entirely unapologetic about it.
‘I guess I don’t consider the Elektric Band to he ajazz group. at least not in the formal sense of the words. although the roots of the group are deﬁnitely jazz-based. I see it as my working group. and it provides a particular kind of platform for me to develop a musical idea over a period of time.‘
While Corea can stretch out in ‘freer and more improvised‘ form in the context of his acoustic trio. the Elektric Band is much more concerned with discipline. orchestration and harmonic and textural colouration.
‘To play music where the sound comes out of a speaker. rather than out of the ambience of an acoustic instrument. is a completely different experience. enough so to regard them as entirely different instruments. and that applies from a playing point of view as well. The way in which electric keyboards respond to touch is so totally different that even the physicality of playing is very different.
‘I guess it helps to lighten the heavy load of survival.’
‘Any instrument is a tool that you use to accomplish something you want to do and in that sense I don't think of electric and acoustic keyboards as different things. The music I can make with each. though. is very different. and in that sense they are complete day and night. The thing that has always been most interesting to me is how 1 can take music and get it across to people. To ﬁnd a new composition or a new way of playing is as simple as sitting down and letting your imagination roam.‘
Corea did experiment with using acoustic bass in the early days of the
Chick Corea's Elektric Band Elektric Band. but opted for an all- electronic lineaup on the grounds that they work better together in orchestral terms. and are much easier to accommodate within a live sound mix — and playing live remains the central basis of his artistic commitment.
‘Making music for an audience is very creative. and I try to apply that even when I am making a record. I base everything 1 do as an artist on the communication that emanates from me and my group to the listener. and that goes whether it is in a concert hall or whether the medium is a recording — I still think of it as going live to the listener.
‘l think it is the job of art to lighten the load of the audience. and get them involved in the creation that's occuring. whatever the medium. I think the health of this planet can be gauged by how many people are involved in arts and music. and the more people we can get interested. the better. It‘s an activity that keeps people feeling good. and I guess it helps to lighten the heavy load of survival.‘
The C/llt'k Corea Elektric Band play a! the Beck 3‘ Ten! on Mon [6.
man A load of mbalax
Fascinating in its rhythmic complexity and raw in its emotional candour, the mbalax style of Senegambian vocalist and bandleader Youssou N'Dour is one of the finest flowers of modern African music. His Mayfest appearance is almost certain to be one of the highlights of the festival, and should not be missed under any circumstances.
With his band Super Etoile de Dakar, N’Dour began the process of revolutionising Senegambian music in 1 the late 70s, simultaneously 1 reaffirming its roots and modernising
it. Bands had previoust played a - rather lame rumba style, derived from i the Afro-Cuban records that had rocked west Africa in the 40s and 50s.
H’Dour’s new sound was based on mbalax, a traditional Senegambian drum and percussion music. To this tough, rural style he added a range of modern instruments: 3 base of rolling, almost flamenco-like guitars, from which the high-pitched tama talking drum explodes, along with fuzzbox guitar solos inspired perhaps by Western rock but offering, more significantly, the distinctively blurred or ‘dirty’ sound favoured by most players of traditional instruments. N’Dour left the mbalax drum sound practically unchanged. Super Etoile used a total of seven traditional drums, led by the supremely expressive tama.
The new mbalax came to its first,
glorious creative peak with E’Boar’s 1984 album ‘lmmigres’, still one of his greatest recordings. Released in Europe by the Paris-based Celluloid label, the album electrified the Western audience for African music and triggered a series of profile- raising collaborations with Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon. Signed and heavily invested in by Virgin in 1987, N’Dour went on to release a series of crossover albums in the West, simultaneoust releasing more raw and rootsy cassette-only albums on the Senegambian market. Parting company from Virgin in 1991, after the hoped-for big international breakthrough had failed to occur, I’Dour remains one of Africa’s most creative, vital and electrifying artists. (Chris May)
Youssou N’Dour plays The Beck’s Tent on Fri 20.
16 The List ()e»l‘) May l‘)‘)4