CD Review: Chamber Music by Ballaké Sissoko & Vincent Ségal

CD Review: Chamber Music
by Ballaké Sissoko and Vincent Ségal
Six Degree Records - for release January 11, 2011

You can catch up on the background of both performers in an earlier post - and listen to the CD via streaming at the link in the title. And, if you're lucky enough to be in NYC January 9, you can catch them live at GlobalFEST.

Much is made in the media of "global fusion" and collaborations and the politics thereof. This coming together of musical minds is more the result of a natural synergy between two virtuosi whose understanding of each others' art simply transcends all boundaries.

Notes of the kora fall like drops of silver over the moodier strains of the cello as the instruments dance around and with each other. The first impression of the CD is one of an overriding beauty, pure and simple, and you can see the close musical relationship between the two artists in this clip, which is Chamber Music, the title track:

It's this piece in particular that I'm hooked on; I find it playing in my head, calling me to put the CD on again and again and again. The two musicians explore a rare sense of ease with each other in a variety of modes. Some of the music is swingy and percussive, elsewhere it's more dissonant and in tune with new classical music. I also heard shades of the Baroque in places, and moods from upbeat to mournful.

Ballaké Sissoko takes a virtuoso turn on the track Houdesti, and on Regret - à Kader Barry they're joined by voice both spoken and sung. Despite a vibe that I'd describe as laidback overall, it's not tune-out new Age background music. I found myself wanting to move and dance to the gentle, yet insistent rhythms.

There's a certain aesthetic in this recording that's very poetic and quite haunting in nature. I'll end it with this from the website:

Ballaké a un secret, il habite la nuit, le silence est son guide.
Par une étrange photosynthèse, Ballaké se transforme quand le soleil se couche, la fatigue disparaît, les ennuis aussi, l'oreille devient un magnolia géant... Alors le jeu commence. Les musiciens connaissent tous le plaisir du jeu de chambre. « After Midnight Session », les jazzmen disent « After affair », double sens merveilleux, concert intime d'après club, ou cigarette des amoureux apaisés. La kora de Ballaké et mon violoncelle sont certes vieux et vénérables mais, dans la nuit de Bamako, ils ont la beauté d’enfants calmes.

Vincent Segal

(CD cover illustration by Benjamen Flao)

1. Chamber Music 5’31
2. Oscarine 5’41
3. Houdesti 8’52
4. Wo Yé N'gnougobine 5’51
5. Histoire de Molly 5’31
6. "Ma-Ma" FC 5’12
7. Regret - à Kader Barry 3’45
8. Halinkata Djoubé 5’08
9. Future 3’15
10. Mako Mady 6’06