Where do you find the link between Appalachian string bands and West African talking drums?
Two years living in rural Ghana and hearing African horse-hair fiddles led jazz composer David Rogers to seek out the connections between rural string music and polyrhythmic percussion. The findings can be heard on the new CD, "JUMP FOR GEORGE" by Imaginary Homeland (Jumbie Records, JMB 0002).
The opening track, "Kanawha Girl," begins with Rogers's keening saxophone playing a Kentucky folk song joined by the aquatic pulse of a Ghanaian water drum. The next piece, "Anthem," brings African-style fiddling together with Rogers's own playing on the Ghanaian talking drum. The CD's title track hums with the buzzing spider-webbed gourds of the Ghanaian xylophone.
"With praises to a dozen genres and fealty to none, this quartet is creating an original vocabulary that endorses both jazz and folk as equal partners in their own musical nation."
—Dirty Linen Magazine
“Imaginary Homeland delves deep into various Ghanaian musical traditions and bursts forth with a fresh blend.”
"From Appalachian folk chants to African rhythms and melodies to the Latin flavors of 'El Sonero,' Imaginary Homeland's saxophone, violin, upright bass and percussion chart a course that is respectful of musical traditions, but seems blissfully unaware of the lines that divide them"
"Combines the best of contemporary jazz with West African instruments and rhythms... makes you want to get up and dance!"
—Ann Arbor Observer
"The 'jazz' label fails to encompass the fresh spirit of this music. Like any cross-cultural collaboration, it may be spurned by purists. But there's a certain logic in combining the folk music of people on either side of the Atlantic. Imaginary Homeland is a nice place to visit; come listen for a while."
—Spin the Globe, KAOS Radio
"It's a wonderful sound that the group has; it combines African xylophone, talking drums with American strings and jazz. You're in good company with Debussy and many other great composers who were highly influenced by… music of other cultures."
—George Preston, WNYC-FM 93.9
"An original, yet somehow deeply rooted, musical sound. [They] have found the non-existent link between Appalachian string bands, Ghanaian percussion, downtown jazz and a host of other ideas that miraculously fit together as if they had the deepest of ethnomusical roots."
"A vibrant, often beautiful brand of global fusion music… Melodies inspired by wandering African violinists wail over talking drums. An African xylophone sings; gourd-instruments shake, rattle and roll; a saxophone sermonizes; a violin resonates with European classical double-stops, then pirouettes from African to Appalachian fancy fiddle riffs… Be sure to tune into Rogers’ all-embracing, spirited, spiritual sounds on this delightful disc."
“Rogers is an inventive and charismatic saxist, and as a bandleader he’s savvy enough to make optimal use of what he’s got: that’s not a mere violin Rice is sawing in the opening track, ‘Kanawha Girl’; it’s bona fide crazy-ass African hillbilly fiddle. When Rogers and Stone duel it out on lunndogo talking drums in their ‘Travelogue,’ you might as well be in the heart of an alternative African universe’s own Bonnaroo jam-band land. .. [In] the synthesis of jazz and world music… Rogers' pieces could only have been conjured via one thoroughly invested in the multiple traditions being considered--think Coltrane's relationship to Indian music.”
—Global Rhythm Magazine
"Recommended new listening. Tenor saxophonist David Rogers… spent an extended period of time in Africa and immersed himself in the Ghanaian musical culture of the Dagbamba people. While there, he assimilated their drum-language and horse hair fiddle compositional forms into his already well-grounded mix of Africa and jazz. Upon returning to NYC, he composed and recorded a new blend based on his greater appreciation of the interrelationship of not only jazz, but also Appalachian fiddle, to the music of West Africa… Enough cannot be said for violinist Marlene Rice. She thrills with exciting jazz and captivating Appalachian techniques that cross continents. Rogers also displays his mastery of the 'talking drum' or lunna on several cuts, most notably the worldly funk of 'Travelogue'… [A] complex and stylistically mature quilt of jazz, Appalachia and Africa."
"Proof that music is a universal language… this fact reveals Rogers' restless spirit, a trait common to all great jazz men… He composed all of the songs… many of which feature his exquisite reed solos."