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The Turning: Percussion Expansions by Jerry Leake

In this solo album, internationally recognized percussionist Jerry Leake sought to create entirely new sounds with traditional Indian and African instruments and rhythms. Each piece begins with a singular rhythm that is expanded with the use of a new rhythm, instrument or technique. Combined with Leake speaking and/or singing drum rhythms, the result is a vibrant, contemporary take on the traditional repertoire. There are some original compositions by Leake as well as arrangements of both traditional tribal songs and a few jazz classics.

The CD begins with "Woodwork", where Leake employs a unique, non-traditional technique. He plays an African balafon with four mallets to create a contrapuntal and harmonic sound that is offset by the clave, shakers, blocks, cajon and sticks that accompany the melody. The sound is something akin to a deep voiced marimba.

The title track of the album, "The Turning" features a mixing of African and Indian instruments. The original meaning of the title is an African rhythm played on the atsimevu master drum. It is used to describe the motion of dancers during the warrior drama "Agbekor" of Ghana. The voices of the Ewe people of South Ghana are included on the recording, and it is easy to hear where the dancers’ turn will occur. The inclusion of the Indian tabla, as Leake is shown with in the picture above, in this African rhythm is very rewarding. Leake has been called one of the greatest non-Indian tabla players, and the examples here do not refute the statement. The tabla rhythms blend with those played on the balafon and sogo drum to create a thickly harmonized sound.

Leake does have several tracks of vibraphone playing, including a rendition of Miles Davis’s "Blue in Green", where he is accompanied by bassist Jonathon Dimond. Leake plays both vibes and percussion in the piece, with the vibraphone playing the melody line. His solos are very modal, perhaps a bit thick for the piece, but are supported by rich dark chords. The drumset mostly contributes color through the cymbals, although at times they are used rhythmically as well. Chimes and a snare drum are lightly used as well.

It would take many hours of listening to dissect each piece into its separate components and analyze each one individually. Each track is indefinitely unique and showcases Leake’s proficiency in all areas. In addition to African and Indian intruments, he also includes instruments such as the Moroccan bendir, Egyptian riq, Brazilian berimbau and Spanish cajon among others. As Leakeinstruments says, "You can never have too much percussion on hand, only too much percussion in hand." There is never a dull moment and the energy level is always high. Even without prior knowledge of these styles and instruments, this album is quite enjoyable to listen to.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Jerry Leake
  • CD Title: The Turning: Percussion Expansions
  • Genre: World Music
  • Year Released: 2006
  • Record Label: Rhombus Publishing
  • Rating: Five Stars
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