May 19 2015
The trio of Ernst Reijseger, Harmen Fraanje and Mola Sylla have released a riveting follow-up to their equally stunning 2013 release Down Deep (which was named the Bird is the Worm Best of 2013 #7 album of the year). With Count Till Zen, the trio of cello, piano and percussion concoct a magnetic serenity that stands apart from anything else on the scene. Some parallels could be drawn with the work of the trio Codona, whose three equally compelling 1970’s recordings were a potent mix of jazz and folk musics. The two recordings of Reijseger/Fraanje/Sylla synthesize their own distillation of jazz and folk musics, and like their predecessors, this trio speaks from the heart and tells songs from the soil.
“Perhaps” opens the album with the happy chatter of strings and percussion, the contemplative warmth of piano, and vocals that split the difference between the two. “Bakou” continues the opener’s trajectory, following an arc that’s a bit melancholy and supremely tuneful, and marrying a bubbling cadence with a melody that sweeps the song off its feet. In both instances, the music has the solemn, almost hymnal presence of a Sunday morning, as well as its world-at-peace tranquility.
As far as tone goes, “Badola” takes a sharp right turn by working up from the funereal into some frenzied and erratic yet still tuneful, as if the melody were tossed into a wind tunnel. And title-track “Count Till Zen” adopts a pleasant bounce and an up-tempo brisk pace, occasionally inserting interludes that glide at a more casual pace. Both of these tracks help frame the soulfulness of the two songs that preceded it.
“Headstream,” on the other hand, goes with thick colors for substance and depth. Its guttural chant provides some edge to the serenity without shattering its surface. This effect is further accentuated by “Debenti,” a crosshatch of a flowing melody and a choppy motion. It simultaneously incites a blissful tranquility and a lively call to action.
“Out of the Wilderness” is the album’s showcase example of how this trio is able to subtly build a song’s intensity from a dreamy sonority into surging crests of shout-to-the-heavens pronouncements. This occurs, too, on “Falémé,” but takes a more direct route to the same destination.
“E Konkon” is all about the swirling motion approximating dance and the assimilation of a melody into the act of propulsion. There is an enchantment set by Count Till Zen, and its predecessor Down Deep, and its a song like this that illustrates how the trio goes about setting it in place.
The album ends on a quiet note with the contemplative “Friuli,” a song that winds down all that came before while still nurturing the music’s life, like a flickering candlelight at the end of a long, beautiful night.
This music is something special. Don’t let it get away from you.
Your album personnel: Ernst Reijseger (5-string cello, voice), Harmen Fraanje (piano, voice) and Mola Sylla (xalam, kongoma, percussion, voice).
Released on Winter & Winter.
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