Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

This is the 1st of your 3 free articles

Become a member for unlimited website access and more.

FREE TRIAL Available!

Learn More

Already a member? Sign in to continue reading

Batagraf and Jon Balke: Statements

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

Norwegian keyboardist Jon Balke started Batagraf as something like an informal drum circle. Leaving his keys in favor of percussion, Balke and drummers Kenneth Ekornes, Harald Skullerud, Helge Andreas Norbakken and Ingar Zach played music just for the fun of it, not with concerts and recordings in mind. But when the collective brought in bata drums-the Nigerian-Cuban instrument so important to Yoruba religion-they saw a real project start to develop.

Batas are used to communicate poems and prayers in Yoruba spiritual ceremonies, and on Statements Balke combines the drums with a number of voices, including those of the great jazz and art-music singers Solveig Slettahjell and Sidsel Endresen, along with minimalist keyboardists and subtle sound tweaking from the leader. Arve Henriksen, who possesses a ghostly vox of his own, sticks to processed trumpet, and Frode Nymo joins him on alto sax.

But whatever elements have been added in postproduction, Statements is fundamentally a drum-and-voice record, recalling John Hassell’s Fourth World music and the performance-art songs of Laurie Anderson. The 12 ethno-electro tracks have an otherworldly sound to them, with odd sonic details popping out of the mix like spirits conjured by a shaman.

Statements speaks.