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Bobby Zankel revives Warriors of the Wonderful Sound for a residency at The Painted Bride and Clef Club

Bobby Zankel's Warriors of the Wonderful Sound | Photo courtesy of the artist
Bobby Zankel’s Warriors of the Wonderful Sound | Photo courtesy of the artist

When Bobby Zankel ended his decade-long run of monthly performances at Tritone in 2011 (mere months before the South Street club itself went to a better place), the future of the saxophonist’s adventurous Warriors of the Wonderful Sound big band was unclear. The following year brought the first reinvention of the band through a series of commissioned compositions from jazz greats Muhal Richard Abrams, Rudresh Mahanthappa, and Steve Coleman.

A more radical reinvention came in 2013, when Zankel scaled down the band to a ten-piece and almost completely overhauled its membership. “The original band had run its course,” Zankel shrugs now. In its first two years the new Warriors maintained its vitality while making fewer appearances, though the more sporadic shows always made an impact: its unveiling at the 2013 Philadelphia United Jazz Festival; an inventive and surprising collaboration with hip-hop choreographer Raphael Xavier and Cuban-born percussionist François Zayas as part of the Kimmel Center’s inaugural Jazz Residency program; a tribute to “New Thing” pioneers Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, and Sun Ra in a powerhouse double-bill with the Sun Ra Arkestra at the Painted Bride. Continue reading →

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Noura Mint Seymali will change everything you think about Afropop

Noura Mint Seymali | Photo courtesy of the artist
Noura Mint Seymali | Photo courtesy of the artist

American writers generally have a tough time talking about African music, and it’s easy to see why. For those listeners who lack the time and resources to learn any of the continent’s hundreds of languages, not to mention every subdivision and nuance of music under the sun, our knowledge is restricted to the handful of artists that music writers can feel confident talking about – artists with global ambitions that, in a digital age, likely make some amount of choice to spread their message to a global audience with whatever power of presentation they have.

The term “Afropop” is a catch-all for a lot of popular music styles from across the continent, but chances are high that you’re only think about very specific artists or genres. Highlife. Fela Kuti. Youssou N’Door. Antibalas. Afrobeat (Kuti’s term). These signifiers conjure up images of large bands with elaborate horn and percussion sections, a few electric instruments sitting comfortably alongside traditional African ones, syncopated rhythms and evocative lyrical refrains that blur the line between dance party and socio-political rally.

An artist like Noura Mint Seymali, who makes her Philadelphia debut at The Painted Bride this Saturday, do not fit so neatly into that narrative. Continue reading →