The Lady of Khartoum
Creative Nation Productions
The Lady of Khartoum, a series of duets between the Boston guitarists Garrison Fewell and Eric Hofbauer, is a lesson in advanced harmonics as well as a tour of global improvised music. You hear Louisiana, Africa and the Middle East in these songs crafted from two guitars and a boxful of percussive toys. Sudan looms especially large. Not only is the album named for the country’s capital, but 10 percent of the CD’s sales go to a relief fund for refugees of Darfur. That’s a good reason to purchase the disc, but so is the music.
It’s eclectic, that’s for sure. Fewell brews a mad storm of bells and other shaken percussion on “Comfort for an Affliction” as Hofbauer lays down a tender yet vaguely threatening melody. For “Dogon Delta Blues,” each guitarist accessorized his guitar: Fewell with metal clips on the strings so he could mimic an African thumb piano, or mbira, Hofbauer with a playing card inserted between his strings to make it sound like a kora. And, indeed, it feels like a Delta blues done Mali-style. They manage to reference both Thelonious Monk and Sun Ra on “Ma’at’s Mood,” and then they go and cover Monk’s “Let’s Cool One,” with each musician improvising around the chord changes after taking one pass at the theme. Perhaps the album’s biggest surprise is “We Need Your Number,” a John Tchicai tune that sounds like straightahead swing in its context.