Revue Kelena Fôly – profoundly human voice and piano of a Malian master

There are few places to hide on a solo piano record. The often flimsy and expressive format has been a glove for some of music’s great improvisers, including Abdullah Ibrahim on 2021’s Solétude and Keith Jarrett on his 1975 hit record The Köln Concert. Malian master musician Cheick Tidiane Seck now makes an entry into the canon with Kelena Fôly – his first solo album in nearly 50 years of career.

Making a name for himself as a versatile keyboard player capable of supporting artists like singer Dee Dee Bridgewater, free jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman and Damon Albarn, Seck’s four albums as a bandleader experimented with synth -funk, vocoder and an earthy sense of groove.

The nine titles of Kelena Fôly announce a marked break with this previous release. Here we find Seck, 68, in an acoustic and intimate setting. While Ibrahim and Jarrett use their vocals as an intuitive whisper or yelp, reinforcing the underlying melodies of their improvisation, Seck harnesses his gravelly baritone to make it the central asset of his record, displaying a hard-won experience in his coarse expression. .

Opener Kana Kassi sets the tone, playing through a cascade of brilliant chords before settling to a bluesy beat with Seck’s haunting vocals, while his tribute to Aimé Césaire sees his range reach a pleading falsetto while repeating the name of the poet and politician in an evocative, emotional chant.

It’s by no means flawless – its cover of the Motherless Child standard wobbles through extended vibrato, while the sweeping descents on Sogomada Tchaman stop and start as if tripping over themselves. But the beauty of the solo format is to embrace momentary imperfection and improvise it in context. As part of Seck’s album, he displays the freedom of his creation through this imperfection. His playing is ultimately deeply human – at times on the verge of collapse but persistent with the driving force of his feeling.

Related: Keith Jarrett: Review of the Bordeaux Concert | John Fordham’s jazz album of the month

Also released this month

Pianist and composer Surya Botofasina, a disciple of Alice Coltrane, releases his debut album, Everyone’s Children (Spiritmuse), creating an ambient soundscape of synthesizers and percussion that contains nuances of Coltrane’s meditative kirtan work. Mauritian rapper Sanzman of Akor delivers a debut with jazz accents on Lionklash (Babani). Traversing everything from the grating vocals a la Danny Brown to the swagger of A Tribe Called Quest, these are 13 highly entertaining tracks. turkish psychedelic singer Gaye Su Akyol brings a powerful blend of group vocals and driving guitar lines on his latest, Anadolu Ejderi (Glitterbeat). The highlights come on Gel Yanıma Gel’s synth syncopations.

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