Sunday, August 15, 2010

Toumani Diabaté at Yoshi's Oakland

Diabaté came to Yoshi's with a small version of the Symmetric Orchestra, three sidemen (electric guitar and bass, drums) who were joined by three guests for some of the program (trumpet, electric guitar, and a string instrument from Mali whose name I can't remember). Unfortunately, I didn't manage to record the names of the other players except for Fanta Mady Kouyaté on the electric guitar, who was amazing. This ensemble sat somewhere between Diabaté's solos and duos in Mandé Variations and New Ancient Strings, and the full-bore Symmetric Orchestra of Boulevard de l'Independence: a bit less ethereal than the former, a bit less funky than the latter. The first set on Saturday, at 8pm, was intense fireworks. As is standard for Yoshi's, if the 10pm room is not full, they allow 8pm guests to stay on the back seats. We stayed, of course. The second set was a bit more subdued, even when playing the same theme, but displayed even richer improvisations. I loved the combination of kora and electric guitar, the way that clusters of notes flew like sparks from the undulating rhythms underneath. I liked this show better than the full Symmetric Orchestra I heard in Philly a few years ago, although for emotional punch, Diabaté's solo show in San Francisco in late 2008 is still unbeaten.

For such a professional place and players, it was just a bit distracting that some amplification glitch put out a steady 60hz hum for most of the two sets.

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