Featuring Sean Noonan, electro-acoustic drumset; Marc Ribot, Aram Bajakian, Jon Madof, electric guitars; Mat Maneri, viola; Thierno Camara, electric bass, vocals, percussion; Abdoulaye Diabaté, Susan McKeown, Dawn Padmore,vocals; Jim Pugliese, Thiokho Diagne, percussion
NY drummer Sean Noonan describes his Brewed by Noon project as “tribal rhythms by an Irish griot” and adds “My goal is to adapt folklore in a modern jazz context, merging storytelling and folk music from bardic and griot traditions.” The basic concept isn’t particularly novel in jazz: what happens when “wandering” folk melodies and grooves from different cultures are communally re-created through improvisation. But the ingredients, the brewing methods, and the spirit of the resulting music, are indeed different.
Start with Sean’s background: Irish Bostonian, Berklee College graduate, co-founder of The Hub, a trio whose punk-jazz has gained a particular following in Europe. A car wreck while touring Italy in 2003 nearly cost him his life and broke both legs: several operations over a period of two years, wheelchair-bound for periods of months, had to learn to do everything physical again, but already back playing the drums as soon as he could move his legs even a bit. As he recuperated he began developing a new project that would blend jazz-punk with west African folk music, and got together again with Senegalese bassist Thierno Camara, an old friend in whose Waaw Band he'd performed years before, to write some new tunes. The first Brewed by Noon album was released independently in 2005, a quartet featuring guitarist friends Aram Bajakian and Jon Madof. He expanded the range of possibilities for this second record by seeking out new collaborators and brilliant downtown jazzers Marc Ribot and Mat Maneri, percussionist Jim Pugliese (one of his teachers), then Malian vocalist Abdoulaye Diabaté (a griot or hereditary praise singer whose mother tongue is Bambara) younger brother of griot Kasse Mady Diabaté, and member of Peter Apfelbaum & the NY Hieroglyphics), as well as Irish gaelic folk/rock singer Susan McKeown and classical and soul vocalist Dawn Padmore (herself of Liberian parentage). The music was created with the assistance of a commissioning grant from the American Composers Forum.
The stories Sean and his band tell in these 10 pieces are exceptionally diverse. You can pick out elements of blues, rock, soul, jazz and improv in various combinations, adding in Celtic and west African song-forms, lyrics, melodic content and instrumental approaches, but all transformed in the process of development. From the funky metaphoric love song to a “Pineapple,” to moral fables about a lost baby elephant in “Esspi” and the presumptuous lord “Massana Cissé,” to the grinding out-rock/jazz interplay of “Scabies” and the spooky hospital lullaby “Dr. Sleepytime,” to the Irish/Malian duet “Noonbrews,” Stories to Tell kaleidoscopically refracts its participants’ cultures, talents and musical experiences into an ecstatic, intoxicating vision, one constantly supported by the energy and direction of Sean’s drumming. And New York, the symbolic melting pot where it all transpires, is paid homage to in the musical rollercoaster “NY.”
Concludes Sean: “I want to understand and preserve these ancient traditions by re-interpreting them from a modern, multi-cultural perspective, exploring my concept of 'brewing’ people, original ideas/concepts, and cultures, since I believe it’s my mission. I’ve become very attached to the people I’ve worked with. Sometimes I dream about them and have visualizations of what they will do with my music. This record is a platform presenting many different themes and formulas. I want to dedicate a record to each theme. I want to continue to learn more about my Gaelic roots and brew them with West African improvisation. And I want to explore new dimensions with my electro-acoustic drumset, utilizing electronics in a way that complements and challenges my approach to the drumkit.”
The audiophile recording was creatively mixed to surround; heard in that format, the often complex instrumental and vocal interplay stands out in great detail even as the listener is immersed in the music.
ReviewsImagine Prime Time joined by Fela Kuti and Bill Frisell, then remixed by Bill Laswell, and you'll start to get a hint of just what an intoxicatingly soulful blast this is. -Jazz Review