CD review

AfuriKo – “Tao”

AfuriKo – Tao
(AFRK01. CD Review by Graham Spry)

AfuriKo are undoubtedly an international duo. Their name is a portmanteau of the Japanese words for Africa and Child. The Anglo-French pianist, Jim Funnell, has travelled throughout Latin America where he absorbed Afro-Latin rhythms. The Japanese percussionist, Akiko Horii, has learnt her skills from the masters of djembe and Ewe drumming in francophone West Africa. The pair of them have lived and worked in the UK, France and America. Their latest and third album, Tao, clearly exhibits their international provenance and influences.

However, Tao is undoubtedly a jazz album. The influences from Africa and beyond are present throughout, but do not swamp the music’s essential jazziness. This is a tuneful, joyous album that brings about a life-affirming sense of sunshine and light. The album’s title and the cover depicting a Yin and Yang reimagined as an African symbol both suggest a celebration of contrasts. This is perhaps how Funnell and Horii see the project, but this is music that melds together remarkably well. Funnell’s piano and keyboards provide the essential melody around which Horii’s mostly African percussion dances around in perfect step.

The songs on the album are all self-composed, with the exception of Kassai, a Japanese pop song from the 1970s. Their version evokes the Jazz Fusion feel of that decade which the original tune most definitely does not do. In many ways, the title tunes are a good guide to the nature of each song. Rainbow Snake is sinuous and colourful. Sunnyside evokes a sun-soaked day. Up In The Air has a sense of airiness. Throughout, there is a feeling of warm weather and contentment. You get the sense that AfuriKo had great fun making this album.

AfuriKo are performing at Ronnie Scott’s this Friday, 24 January, with special guest Ant Law: one of the UK’s best and most intriguing jazz guitarists. From the evidence of this album, this is likely to be an entertaining and upbeat gig, to which I’m sure Ant Law will bring extra quality and depth.

Graham Spry is a music enthusiast and collector, and lives in Gloucestershire.

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