Ramon Lopez: Kalimba & Drums Solo II: Swinging with Doors
Joachim Kuhn and Majid Bekkas
Despite the virtuosic complexity of Joachim Kühn, Majid Bekkas and Ramon Lopez' new album Kalimba, its most moving moment occurs when Bekkas' course, gorgeous vocals begin the chorus on "Dounia , a melodically simple tune that reverberates with the heart-wrenching history of the Gnawa people, descendants of Sub-Saharan African slaves brought to Morocco in the 16th century. Bekkas' ancestry reaches back to this group and his efforts are extraordinary; "Dounia means "the world , a concept the trio embodies with their masterful technique, historical contexts and continent-spanning predilections.
Rhythms, harmonically rich and breathlessly original, spawn from classical, jazz and tribal traditions. And the group pulls each off with a sophisticated confidence that never leans on gimmicky notions of world music. Instead, Kühn (grand piano), Bekkas (guembri, oud and kalimba in addition to vocals) and Lopez (drums) ease into a track gently, exploring the possibilities fully and before you know it, they're engaged in a fevered tumult.
Lopez, whose percussive language is vast, includes tabla in his drum set, providing a tensile sound that mingles nicely with Bekkas' oud. Together they propel Kühn's piano melodies to exotic realms, like on "Rabih's Delight , which showcases the trio's flexibility as they switch instantly from a woozy meander to a spastic, Sephardic-tinged frenzy. The drummer introduces new textures constantly, provoking the piano with fluttering fills, or tinny scratches that quickly get washed away by the cymbal. Kühn doesn't give in so easily. He stays the course of his own melodic perspective, specifically on "Sabbatique which largely features improvisation, as well as a hardy display by Kühn on alto saxophone.
Lopez' new solo album, Drums Solo II: Swinging with Doors, shows the drummer in an entirely different scenario. To put it bluntly, he's improvising to a door. Well, many doors kitchen doors, station doors, school doors, even sauna doors. The doors, played by Finnish bassist and composer Teppo Hauta-aho, produce long squeaks of varying pitch and tempo. Lopez reacts to the ambiance the doors create, hitting chimes, blowing horns, bowing a cymbal, rolling some curved, rubbery object against some stretched skin; the result is texturally extraordinary. Playful pattering offsets deep, rubbery, torturous tones. They elevate to a rumble before flowing into the hollow sounds of a hand drum on "The Beauty of Life . The metallic, echoey shards created by cymbal hitting cymbal mingle with a quick, primitive patter on "The Godfather of Modern Drumming .
Even without doors, Lopez solo merits a listen, but when that gargantuan rumble begins again, you sit up a little bit straighter. It's creepy, that constant, warbling when it slows sounds of a door in need of an oiling. Lopez' counter is downright cheerful in comparison. His method of focusing on a particular sound pattern before moving on results in the formation of a large collection of tiny characters. His narrative is vast and complex, but endearing and somehow, oddly familiar.
Tracks and Personnel
Kalimba (with Ramon Lopez)
Tracks: A Live Experience; Hambouchi; Good Mood; Kalimba Call; Youmala; Rabih's Delight; Dahin; Sabbatique; Dounia; White Widow.
Personnel: Joachim Kuhn: grand piano, alto saxophone; Majid Bekkas: guimbri, oud, kalimba, voice; Ramon Lopez: drums.
Drums Solo II: Swinging with Doors
Personnel: Ramon Lopez: percussion.