Dutch saxophonist De Graaf was looking to make this album a sort of sequel to a previous session in which he had been invited to play with musicians from Mali in West Africa. He found it inspiring but he had to fit into their musical concept. In Fo4r Winds he has created a more personal concept album, using all his own compositions except for one, and making them the basis for improvisations which honor the various cultures of the members of his world music/jazz band.
I was immediately attracted to the inclusion in the band of both steel pans and the sophisticated African harp known as the kora. Also percussionist Burhoe plays some mean tablas on several of the tracks, lending an East Indian flavor to the music. Both kora virtuoso Diabaté and bassist Diallo are from Mali. Some attempted mixes of world music and jazz fall rather flat because it sounds like the two approaches to the music are just trying to fit in without stepping on each other’s musical toes. Not so De Graaf’s group – most of the tracks sound like completely integrated musical ideas that don’t cry out India / Caribbean / Africa and so on as you hear the various ethnic instruments featured. And there’s no lack of good tunes along with the catchy rhythms that make you want to get up and dance. This is a mostly instrumental album, the vocals are minimal. The clarity of the hi-res stereo puts you up close to the band and digging the unexpected instrumental sounds. The kora is especially well-represented; I don’t believe I had appreciated before what a rich and unique sound Mali’s national instrument has!