Bones And Tones – Bones And Tones (2011)

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by S. Victor Aaron

A marimba, a vibraphone, a stand-up bass, percussion and a little kora. A little bit of American jazz, a dash of Caribbean and a side of African folk music, but not quite like any of the three. How sweet the sound.

That’s the kind of sound coming from this one-of-kind quartet Tones And Bones. A crew heavily steeped in knowledge about percussion type instruments, T and B came together for the specific purpose for performing at the Long Beach Jazz Festival, and decided to take the collaboration further, into the studio. After listening to the results, I would add, “thankfully so.” Comprising of Abdou Mboup (vocals, kora and percussion), Jaribu Shahid (bass and percussion), Lloyd Haber (marimba, bells and percussion) and Warren Smith (vibraphone and percussion), a favorite around here, the quartet pooled together their talents to interpret original compositions from Haber and Smith to craft music that’s exotic, and more full of tonality than you might think given the setup.

It’s probably a little more tonal than you might think, too, it’d be given the credentials of Smith and Haber (Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, etc.), but each of them give us tunes that are quite harmonious. Smith’s “228” has a warm sound in spite of the bank of tribal rhythms roaring in at various spots before disappearing again. That can be attributed to Smith’s vibes that are voluminous and swinging like Milt Jackson. Haber’s “Song For The Old Ones,” as it’s a well written composition, is another highlight; he takes the lead on this one with Smith providing the dulcet shadings behind him.

Mboup sings in his native West African tongue for the opener “Breathing Water” and the closer “In The Valley of Dreams.” On both of those songs, Mboup also plays his 21 string lute instrument, the kora. The enchanting, soothing sound of the kora fit so well with the marimba and vibraphone, it’s kind of a shame it wasn’t used more throughout the album. As a percussionist, Mboup and the others modulates their rhythms well, never overwhelming Haber and Smith. He and Shahid work together to construct smart grooves that bolster the songs (“Dance For Suwoo” and “MR7” are good examples of that), and not turn them into runaway rhythm fests.

Those rhythms, combined with the marimba and vibes so well, however, make Bones And Tones a vibes/marimba type record that’s more fun to listen to than most other vibes records because the group took such a light and fresh approach to it. Bones And Tones, from Freedom Art Records, is set for release March 1.

Purchase: Bones And Tones – Bones And Tones

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