Bugge Wesseltoft – Ok World
(Jazzland Recordings 376 365-5. CD Review by Eric Ford)
From Norwegian pianist Bugge Wesseltoft‘s liner notes it’s clear that this isn’t supposed to be a “jazz meets world music” project but rather a forum for assembling a bunch of musicians who operate in traditional music in Spain, India, the Lebanon and Mozambique and showing how readily compatible these traditions are, rhythmically and harmonically. Bugge adds some sparkling Chick Corea-esque piano but doesn’t hog the limelight, although I’d have been pleased if he had!
Anglo-Indian Shrikant Shriram‘s Jaco-esque bass- and flute-playing also stand out on this CD, adding a groovy, funky element and some fretless pathos to the slow, moody tracks, including his own Always Hopeful. In fact Sriram has co-writing credits on another 6 of the 10 pieces, making him (as he sounds) Wesseltoft’s single most important musical collaborator on this project. The three percussionists (there’s no drumkit on the album) work impeccably together and get their most interesting workout on Sharanagati, a 9/4 opus by Indian mridangam and cangira exponent Vivek Rajagopalan. Guitarist Josemi Carmona brings a flamenco influence and there are ruminative Arabic vocals (added after the music was recorded) from Maryam Saleh on track one and Georges Nehme on tracks one and five, which add atmosphere but which-having been added “after the event”- don’t seem particularly central to proceedings.
Whether all of this makes the CD too jazzy for “authenticity”-obsessed world music fans but not jazzy enough for jazz fans is open for debate. Certainly, everybody except Wesseltoft and Shriram is playing entirely within traditional contexts and not doing anything they wouldn’t normally (except perhaps playing in 9/4!). The music serves to demonstrate commonalities within the African, Indian and European traditions. Wesseltoft and Sriram have simply superimposed some simple melodies and jazzy harmony every now and then. It’s limited collaboration with most of the musicians only being asked to do what they’re already comfortable with, rather than full-on immersion by each member in the others’ traditions such as was the case with, say, John McLaughlin’s trios with Trilok Gurtu and Dominique di Piazza / Kai Eckhardt. That said, this is a nice album with a positive vibe and message and an appeal beyond jazz circles.