Meditations for John Coltrane
ACCRA TRANE STATION MEDIATATIONS FOR JOHN COLTRANE COMPOSED AND PERFORMED IN COLLECTIVE IMPROVISATION BY NII NOI NORTEY, NII OTOO ANNAN, & STEVEN FELD A TRIBUTE TO THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF JOHN COLTRANE'S CLASSIC RECORDING, MEDITATIONS. NOTE BY NII NOI NORTEY Nii Otoo Annan and I first met Steven Feld, whom we call "Prof," in 2004 during his first visit to Ghana. He came to my home in Accra to listen to us play and gave us some of his recordings. That afternoon we discovered that John Coltrane held a similar place in our hearts. Coltrane's music moved us both as young men and has stayed with us throughout our lives as musicians and researchers into the powers of sound. I told Prof how happy I was to welcome a man from Philadelphia, John Coltrane's city. Prof recorded some of our music that afternoon. When the CD with his editing arrived back in Accra (later published on The Time of Bells, 3: Musical Bells of Accra, VoxLox 2005) I knew we would start to work together seriously. From there it didn't take long to come up with the plan to pay African respects to John Coltrane on the 40th anniversaries of A Love Supreme and Meditations. Prof returned to Accra in 2005 and together with Agazi, a local engineer, we helped him fashion a home studio where we gathered regularly. By the last session we even managed to get Prof unhooked from his headphones to join us on the ashiwa, our box bass. In 2006 Prof came back to Accra for a sustained visit, and having refined his ashiwa skills, we invited his full participation in our performances and recording sessions. When he departed for Europe some months later, Prof told us that he was taking the tracks to the studio of an old friend in Paris, someone whose ears we all could really trust. How true! Jean Schwarz, thank you for joining the band. So now, across continents, Accra Trane Station offers you these Meditations as a song of praise and African homecoming, in humble acknowledgement of John Coltrane's ongoing inspiration. Nii Noi Nortey Anyaa Arts Library Accra, Ghana === NOTE BY STEVEN FELD "Where do you come from? Nii Noi asked. "I'm from the USA, a place called Philadelphia." "Philadelphia?! Wow, the city of John Coltrane!" "You know his music?" "Know it?! It saved my life! (delivered with one of Nii Noi's great belly laughs). Just look around. Coltrane's pictures, albums, they're all over my house. And check out my drummer! Can you believe how much he looks like Elvin Jones?! Goose bumps came over me. It's true. Nii Otoo Annan's resemblance to Elvin is striking. And then, hearing the musical chemistry as he and Nii Noi played together, I knew that the Coltrane-Jones legacy was alive and well, and profound, in Accra. That afternoon Nii Noi introduced me to his inventions, the afrifones, African reed and wind instruments modified with clarinet or saxophone mouthpieces. And as we came to know each other in the music, he invited me to come back to Ghana to join Accra Trane Station. After recording together I wrote to Jean Schwarz about how this project joined Coltrane, Africa, and contemporary music. I knew he'd be the perfect studio collaborator. And with good reason: he studied jazz drumming with Kenny Clarke, has been engineer of the Musée de l'Homme world music series and the Le Chant du Monde "Jazz Treasure" compilations, and is a well-known composer of electro-acoustic music. Erda, one of my favorite of his compositions, includes a beautiful hommage to Coltrane. Listeners familiar with the original Meditations will hear how Nii Noi opens this recording on alto sax with a transformation of the melody that John Coltrane titled "Love." And that is really the best word to describe how this project has brought us all together, old and new friends from Accra, Philadelphia, and Paris, in the love of musical meditation for and with John Coltrane. Steven Feld Professor of Anthropology and Music The University of New Mexico, USA ___ On this recording Nii Noi Nortey plays his inventions, the afrifones, African reed instruments modified with saxophone mouthpieces. His other wind instruments include alto saxophone, Western C flute, and alboita, a deconstructed Western oboe with North African double-reed alghaita tunings. He also plays gonje, a one-string bowed lute, seperewa harp, gyili balafon, and Zimbabwean mbira njari. Nii Otoo Annan plays APK, the "African Percussion Kit," which consists of a gyili balafon, small metal gyili xylophone, jazz hi-hat and ride cymbals, bell rack with several gankokui double bells and assorted hand bells; djembe, kpanlogo, atumpani, and brekete floor drums, as well as a four-keyashiwa box bass. He also plays molo two-string lute. Prof (Steven Feld) plays the three-key ashiwa box bass. Meditations, 1 10'03 Nii Noi, alto saxophone; Nii Otoo, double gyili and cymbals; Prof, ashiwa Meditations, 2 7'19 Nii Noi, gyili; Nii Otoo, APK; Prof, ashiwa Meditations, 3 10'47 Nii Noi bari afrifone, C flute; Nii Otoo, hi-hat and ashiwa (L); Prof, ashiwa (R) Meditations, 4 5'44 Nii Noi, mbira njari; Nii Otoo, APK; Prof, ashiwa Meditations, 5 8'22 Nii Noi, alboita, soprano afrifone; Nii Otoo, APK; Prof, ashiwa Meditations, 6 7'17 Nii Noi, seperewa; Nii Otoo, gyili; Prof, ashiwa Meditations, 7 3'55 Nii Noi, C flute; Nii Otoo, APK; Prof, ashiwa Meditations, 8 5'15 Nii Noi, gonje; Nii Otoo, molo; Prof, ashiwa Meditations, 9 8'37 Nii Noi, bass afrifone; Nii Otoo, APK; Prof, ashiwa Meditations, 1-9 were collectively composed in improvisation by Nii Noi Nortey, Nii Otoo Annan and Steven Feld. Compositions are presented as created, with no studio overdubs. +++ Produced by Steven Feld for Accra Trane Station Meditations 1-5 and 7-9 recorded at Anyaa Arts Library, Accra, March-April, 2006 Meditations 6 recorded at Studio Upstairs, Haatso, Accra, June, 2005 Location recordings by Nana Agazi and Steven Feld Mixed and Mastered by Jean Schwarz at Celia Records Studio, Paris, June, 2006 THE ARTISTS Nii Noi Nortey is the inventior of the afrifones, African reed instruments modified with saxophone mouthpieces. His other wind instruments include alto saxophone, Western C flute, and alboita, a deconstructed Western oboe with North African double-reed alghaita tunings. He also plays gonje, a one-string bowed lute, seperewa harp, gyili balafon, and Zimbabwean mbira njari. Nii Noi has been featured with many groups, including Dadekrama, Mau Mau Muziki, and Afrikan Sound Project. During his London-based years he played in the reggae group Misty n' Roots. He has also performed for many years with the legendary musician Ghanaba. Nii Otoo Annan plays APK, the "African Percussion Kit," which consists of a gyili balafon, small metal gyili xylophone, jazz hi-hat and ride cymbals, bell rack with several gankokui double bells and assorted hand bells; djembe, kpanlogo, atumpani, and brekete floor drums, as well as a four-keyashiwa box bass. He also plays molo two-string lute. Nii Otoo has been part of the ritual and traditional drum scene in Accra, has played highlife, and has been featured together with Nii Noi in Mau Mau Muziki, Jazz Kelenche, and African Sound Project. Steven Feld ('Prof') plays the three-key ashiwa box bass in Accra Trane Station. His Ghana projects include The Time of Bells, 3: Music Bells of Accra (VoxLox 2005), and Por Por: Honk Horn Music of Ghana (Smithsonian Folkways, 2007). He is Distinguished Professor fo Anthropology and Music at the University of New Mexico.