The Tel Aviv Session – The Touré-Raichel Collective (Cumbancha/ September 3 2012)
By Alexandra Sewell
Israeli piano virtuoso Idan Raichel and Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré serendipitously met in a German airport while independently on tour and decided it was a good idea to make an album. “When I first met Idan he looked like a crazy hippie to me. But he carried himself with a lot of confidence… then the minute we first played together, I knew that I was right” claims Touré, who clearly recognises talent when he sees it.
A good idea turned into a work of art, it seems, and what followed was an intrinsic musical engagement that resulted in a debut album. The two were joined by fellow Malian cabalash player Souleymane Kane and Israeli bassist Yossi Fine (who is also a long time friend of Raichel’s) in a small Tel Aviv studio. This assembly of four talented musical minds created The Tel Aviv Session; a celebration Middle Eastern and southern European music in it’s purest form.
This album is genuinely a pleasure to listen to. Just knowing this album wasn’t planned has it’s charm. The project grew into a more tight-knit amalgam of styles as the foursome experimented with different sounds in the studio. Culture, experience, language and tradition are evident in the final product and this translates well to the listener.
‘Azawade’ greets you gently as you press play and is a great start to the album. The track starts off with a slow, raw and unassuming acoustic sound; a chilled and soulful execution that has a slight pop edge. It sounds at first as if a newly reformed Damien Rice has returned with a brand new outlook on music and released an album after travelling to Israel; however, if you go deeper into the subtle guitar picking, the expressive piano and history behind these tracks, it seems so much more than just a standard world-pop act.
The album ends as it starts. Ethiopian-Israeli singer Cabra Casey lends her vocals to ‘Ane Nahatka’, which is an upbeat yet ethereal song that has more of a catchy pop tone that sticks in your mind long after you hear it. ‘Alem’ (featuring Mark Eliyahu) is chosen to end the album as it starts. A cloak-and-dagger but heartfelt piano guides you through an affirming blend of both Touré’s subtle and patient guitar and Eliyahu’s wonderful traditional kamancheh.
The Tel Aviv Session is a gem of an album. It’s passion and authenticity speaks volumes through the musicians’ drive to create something special and unique to them. That extra quality, though, is that these musicians are highly skilled enough to deliver a top class effort that gives the impression of a true one-off treat.