Nicolas Kummert, La Diversité

by Sylvannia Garutch

At the age of 17 Belgium saxophonist Nicolas Kummert gained an affinity for African music from a two month stay in Senegal, where he collaborated with local musicians and later from Benin, Mali, Kenya, Sao Tomé, Morocco and Tunisia.  The chance to meet award-winning guitarist Lionel Loueke during a recording session for Beninese singer Patrick Ruffino in 2008 began the respectful relationship and by 2015, Kummert had asked Loueke to join his new band. Kummert has been prolific at creating his continued discography.  His previous albums include Voices (2014); Flow (2015); and now in 2017, La Diversité.

An admirable trait in Kummert’s playing is how he carefully crafts compositions with winding saxophone lines that are cornerstone to his success on La Diversité, banded by Loueke’s subtle note choices, which drive the offering to a higher level of consciousness.   That is not to say that Loueke is only capable of understatement, quite the contrary as exhibited on “We’ll Be Alright,” which explores a more boisterous elucidation.  An antipodean deliverance on, “And What If We’re Not.” Features Loueke seamlessly moving from electric to acoustic guitar, employing bell like harmonics on “Le Vent Se Lève” and evoking dexterous finger picking on “Le Peuple De L’Arc-En-Ciel.”

On “Gnossienne A Deux,” Kummert and Loueke reveal a poignancy of their chemistry together as a duo, and certainly individually as players.  Two versions of Leonard Cohen’s hit song “Hallelujah” (and an acoustic “Hallelujah Again”) might in the hands of some sound more like redundancy, but played correspondingly by the quartet and duo, they are emphasized by the characteristically delicate treatment afforded the pieces. From the West African rhythmic feel of “Rainbow People” to the languorous smoldering of “Diversity Over Purity” the resounding essential point is a mesmerizing, innovative experience, abounding nuances and creative ideas to keep the listener engaged throughout.

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