Pierre Favre Ensemble
Pierre Favre drums, gongs, crotales, cymbals
Paul Motian drums, gongs, crotales, calebasses, rodbrushes
Fredy Studer drums, gongs, cymbals
Nana Vasconcelos berimbau, voice, tympani, conga, water pot, shakers, bells
Recorded May 27 and 28, 1984, Mohren, Willisau
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Singing Drums brings together some of ECM’s most formidable percussionists in this one-off incarnation of the Pierre Favre Ensemble. For this date, Favre welcomes Paul Motian, Fredy Studer, and Nana Vasconcelos into his fold. The results are, while brilliant, likely to be overlooked due to the special interest of its instrumental makeup. Let this not deter anyone, however, from experiencing its wonders. What I love most about this session is that each player’s style is so instantly recognizable. Between the twangy call of Vasconcelos’s berimbau, the crotales of Favre, the delicate cymbals of Studer, and Motian’s earthly patter, we can easily tease out every thread of conversation being woven before us.
One finds in these atmospheres broad intimations of times and places, a blurring of geographic and cultural signatures into a mosaic of worldly mindedness, a space where human and animal blur into one another, such that the hands of the player become the keen pounce of a lion in the bush and the leap of the gazelle who thwarts it. Drones and footsteps exchange glances amid the branches of the opening “Rain Forest,” while other tracks like “Metal Birds” work in more clipped gestures. Vasconcelos’s chanting is a vital thread here, and seeks only to enhance the pitch-bent drums and other sinuous energies around him.
This is a profound album of subtle creativity that gets only deeper with every listen. Anyone who knows these performers will not expect an all-out frenzy, but the careful and porous readings of “Edge Of The Wing” and “Prism,” not to mention the whispered accents of “Frog Song.” Theirs is a journey both of anthropology and dislocation, a masterful text written “Beyond The Blue,” which leaves us to ponder the cries of our ancestors, as countless as the stars above our heads.