After being mostly a blues musician for years, touring the country, I decided it was time to explore other ways of making music---loops, sound bytes, poets, and random found sounds from daily life.
That was the beginning of RHYTHMMUSIC. There are odd rhythms here, samples from real life, sound bytes from visual artists who are friends of mine, like the honorable Lonnie Holley. I’ve tried to make music that is different, sometimes quirky, but definitely groovy.
When you’ve played the same songs every night for years, you just get to a point where you want something else. Something more. Whether people like it is up to them. But I know this for sure: Making music that I like and enjoy makes me free, unbounded, and keeps me motivated.
I am grateful to have studied West African music with the Grand Masters Mamady Keita, Fomadou Konate, and Bolokada Conde for over ten years, so there are plenty of ethnic-infused rhythms on the disc as well. The music and rhythms of West Africa ARE the roots of all music and I will always be a student.
I truly hope you enjoy this music---relax, have fun, and get into the RHYTHM!!!
Based in Birmingham, AL, John Scalici is an internationally recognized drum circle facilitator, speaker, musician, clinician, and master teacher whose creative artistry is perhaps paralleled only by his desire to encourage and build individuals through the gift of music. He is also an artist of high caliber, bringing to mind stellar percussionists such as Glen Velez, Trilok Gurtu and Alex Acuna. Whether in schools, churches,
community centers or health care facilities, Scalici's infectious enthusiasm and positive nature serve to bring joy along with a sense of teamwork and therapeutic accomplishment to the participants in his workshops and programs. His enthusiasm and artistry effectively inform his latest project, RhythmMusic Vol. 2, which mostly showcases Scalici's instrumental prowess, but also includes guest vocals from friends.
"Boomsmacker" is a fascinating amalgam of West African rhythms with hand drums and shakers, along with kalimba, or African thumb piano. What gives the track a particularly interesting twist are syncopated blues guitar riffs which reveal the blues background that makes up part of Scalici's musical resume'. A listen on headphones offers a real treat as the roots of the blues are taken back to the mother land. A variety of hand claps, producing various tones and timbres, are woven with hand drums to provide the polyrhythmic framework for "Clappit". With a light improvisational touch, various percussion instruments add just a bit of spice to enhance things in what amounts to an inventive yet groovy listening experience.
With foot stomps and hand claps reminiscent of rock group Queen's "We Will Rock You" forming the foundation, Scalici's "Culture" provides the introduction of vocals on the project as chants come together with simple kalimba melodies to form a chorus. As the assorted musical parts fall into place, the Queen reference is all but forgotten. Talented poet Sharrif Simmons delivers his thought-provoking and contemplative message as the rhythm strips down to make the right canvas for his recitation. With lyrics such as "culture is memory redeeming stories" and "songbirds sing symphonies" and "valleys of dry bones", Simmons thoughtfully expounds on a number of topics while tying them into the central theme. "Culture" also features imaginative production techniques characterized by cool separation of various percussion instruments in the soundscape.
"Nature in a Cup" features a sparse rhythm comprised of Agogo bell, hand drums and percussion instruments played with sticks. Scalici's use of restraint allows for sparingly played swampy guitar chords and notes to provide a hint of melody. African-American spoken word samples bring "Nature in a Cup" to the back porch of rural Alabama, or maybe Mississippi, in this pleasantly creative fusion of styles and colors.
While RhythmMusic Vol.2 is a mostly organic and acoustic affair, Scalici uses a throbbing synth in the intro to "Ricky's Rhythm" as he sets things up for crazy interlocking rhythms and guest vocal injections ("this is a really craaaazy scenario!") on this made-for-headphones track. Distorted guitar is also added to the mix in a non-intrusive way while thundering drums percolate in the background and various assorted percussion instruments work just to the forefront with great panning effects. "Things on the Line" begins with a spoken word intro followed by ancient-sounding bells. Unexpectedly, a drum kit comes in with a funky kick and snare beat, though it never overwhelms the bells or spoken words. To reinforce the backbeat, Scalici employs a synth bass which seems to be approached more like a percussion instrument than anything else. As diverse as these sounds are, they somehow work together very nicely.
The project concludes with the Native American-influenced "Two Friends", which includes a tranquil flute, trickling water sounds and assorted shakers over a tribal beat foundation. The percolating rhythm, with some drums played by hands and others with sticks, offers just the right pulse. Simple, bird-like flute melodies drift in an out as the track comes to a close.
While some percussionists seem to fall into the trap of jamming to no end, John Scalici never does this here. Instead, he has melded exotic and ethnic rhythms with subtle colors, textures and influences to make RhythmMusic Vol. 2 an inspired and entertaining work of art.
Review by Mike Roots
Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)