It didn’t take more than ten seconds of listening to the first track on The Tel Aviv Session to agree with PopMatters’ reviewer David Maine’s high praise that “this is the best record you will hear this year”. So when I heard The Touré-Raichel Collective was coming to New York, I jumped at the chance to attend. The four member outfit came together when Idan Raichel (piano) crossed paths with Vieux Farka Touré (guitar) in an airport and suggested they collaborate. Skip ahead a few years and four musicians, including Yossi Fine (bass) and Souleymane Kane (percussion), got together for one “magical night”, as Raichel put it, in Tel Aviv for a recording session. The rich evocative music they created sounds so organic and natural that you might think the musicians had been playing together for years. In that studio, friends came and went, joining in on a few songs and adding to the homely atmosphere.
After several songs, Raichel thanked the New York audience for coming, welcoming them into the band’s “living room”. Later, Touré shared some of his thoughts about meeting keyboard player, and called Raichel “my friend”. (Fine was not with the group on this tour, but instead Amit Carmeli played in his stead.) Like that fateful night, these friends were joined by a couple of more people on stage. And also just like that night, the music was dynamically alive so the City Winery audience could fully experience those enticing desert melodies.
I tried to jot down the setlist, but such vibrant music was never strictly defined to begin with and I eventually lost track of the specific elements from the album. All the more reason to immerse myself further. From my understanding (and I could be wrong) the band played variations of “Azawade”, “Le Niger”, “Bamba”, and “Alkataou” before Raichel gave his thanks. Then the band welcomed their first guest, Malian singer Awa Sangho, up to the stage for a stirring turn in “Experience”. I imagined “Hawa” was next but then lost track entirely until the band welcomed French saxophonist Alex Terrier for the Flecktones-esque “Touré” which thrilled the seated and clapping audience. Terrier nearly went red in the face to provide the energy in this song. After a short break later, the band returned for another song or two, where Carmeli impressed the audience with some mesmerizing chants.
The eighty minutes or so from The Touré-Raichel Collective was a satisfying experience. It is hard to explain my connection to the music other than to just say I feel naturally drawn to it. That must be the same sensation Touré and Raichel have for each other. The two musicians, now friends, naturally create some great beautiful music together. The audience saw a special moment of closeness between the two at the end of the show. Raichel had just received some flowers which caught Touré‘s eye and a glimmer of mischief was evident. When Raichel reached out to share the flowers, Touré instead caught him in an embrace.
Stream of short performance on WNYC’s Soundcheck: