Album Reviews

Various Artists – The Road To Jajouka (Howe)

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The Road To JajoukaSome 42 years ago, Rolling Stone Brian Jones shared his discovery of Morocco’s Master Musicians of Jajouka via an album of field recordings featuring their extraordinary sounds. Now, a current cast of progressive players—Medeski Martin & Wood, Marc Ribot, Ornette Coleman, Mickey Hart and John Zorn, among others—is revisiting Jajouka with the same zeal and fascination.

Unlike Jones, who chose to remain an outside observer, this crop of participants actually plays a part in the proceedings. Fortunately, their various contributions don’t detract from the overall sound. The swirling pipes and insistent percussion are meshed with sharp guitar riffs and headstrong rhythms, culminating in a series of trance-like meditations that have a hallucinogenic allure. “Hand of Fatima” and “Jnuin,” for example, tend to evolve out of seemingly random sequencing, pulsating through a weird combination of acid jazz and traditional trappings. Even when the mood takes an ominous turn, as on the transcendent “Djebala Hills,” the end effect remains mesmerising.

For some, the lack of defined melodies and the extravagant trappings might make The Road to Jajouka a challenging route to follow. However, for the more adventurous listener, this cross-cultural experiment becomes an enticing journey indeed.

– Lee Zimmerman

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