Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Merely a Traveler on the Cosmic Path

Adam Rudolph and Ralph M. Jones
N’zungi a nzilla (Lembe Initiatory Proverb translated)
Merely a Traveler on the Cosmic Path
Meta Records, 2012.

Adam Rudolph grew up on the Southside of Chicago. He is a master percussionist, visual artist, and writer. In addition, Rudolph is a leader of World Music influenced by his experience of trance ceremonies in Ghana, and twenty-five years of global music study. Ralph M. Jones is a Faculty-in-Residence at the African Heritage House at Oberlin College. Besides his educational devotion to African American studies , he is a master flutist who has recorded and performed nationally and internationally.

These two amazing artists began their journey in sound after they met at the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival in 1974, when they were both scheduled alongside James Brown. They had instant chemistry, and became musical soulmates who understood each other musically and metaphorically. Perhaps this is because they have many similarities, such as indigenous music traditions, shared languages, and piercing spiritual strengths that they interweave into their music. It is remarkable how their musical tones, even the vibrations that seem discordant, transmit a spiritual intent to unlock the door of our consciousness.
As I listened to the music’s incisive stream of stimulating sounds and rhythms, it was like walking into a tunnel of modernity. Interfused with the percussion and wind instruments, are vibrant industrial sounds, traffic noise, and electronic blurts that are interrupted by unexpected silences. What makes the music fascinating is the way the artists temper the clamorous vibrations with the musical traditions of African, Indonesian and Raga. This mixture successfully captures the sound language of modern social life, while evoking an intense memory of naturalness. The call of the natural world is more evident  in their earlier recording, so I included it for background.  

Yeyi (yay-yee), Meta Records, 2010, an earlier recording by Adam Rudolph and Ralph M. Jones, is more primitive in its sound communication than Merely a Traveler on the Cosmic Path. The name Yeyi (yay-yee) indicates the yodeling of the Mbuti pygmies, who are one of the oldest indigenous people of Africa. For the listener it is easy to sense the forest and its inhabitants erupting into a disturbing struggle as they attempt to survive the upsurge of modernity. It is sometimes uncomfortable as the instruments and vibrations reveal the pain modern social life brought to nature.

Merely a Traveler on the Cosmic Path and Yeyi (yay-yee) are classified in the genre of jazz. Indeed, the flow of the musical tones engages one’s emotions rather than one’s intellect, as is characteristic of jazz. However, after repeatedly listening to the dramatic and spiritual vibrations of our modern culture present in both recordings, I began to think of this music as postmodern tribal music. Interestingly, no matter how many times I heard the recordings, none of the melodies remained with me, but the sensory impressions of modern social life remain in my consciousness.

I would recommend both recordings to anyone who is intrigued by World Music that is influenced by tribal rituals of indigenous cultures. Additionally, I believe it is significant to listen to the arrangements in the order that they were recorded with an open mind because it is truly a cosmic journey.

Personnel: Adam Rudolph: handrumset (kongos, djembe, tarijas, zabumba), thumb piano, cup gongs, gongs, kongo slit drum, glockenspiel, percussion and percussion samples, electronics and sinter
Ralph M. Jones: ney, hulusi, umtshingo, bamboo flutes, tenor and soprano saxophones, alto and c flutes, bass clarinet and piano.
Tracks: Merely a Traveler on the Cosmic Path: Spirit Voices, Storytelling, Illuminated, Rainbow rivers of Skin, Fragrance of Compassion, Ballad of Questions, Refracted Splendor, Spectrum, Calligraphic, Wanderings, Starlit, The Poetry of You, Those Who Know-Will Know, (Who is?) Love’s Lover
Yeyi (yay-yee): performed in a continuous flow and the titles are reference markers. Nectaric Vibrations, Aspects of Motion, Oshogbo, Dream Inflected, Leaf Writing, Celestial Space, forest Geometry, Kind Thoughts, Motherless Child, Thankfulness and Joy

Patsy Gunn

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