The Lady of Khartoum is an eclectic series of duets by Boston-based guitarist/composers Garrison Fewell and Eric Hofbauer. Inspired by the deeper roots of jazz in the music of West Africa, Persia and the Arabic-Islamic world, this intergenerational duo’s music juxtaposes ancient traditions with the language and techniques of contemporary improvisation. “It seemed to both Garrison and Eric that the music of several cultures, reshaped over several tempestuous centuries, pulses through jazz of the 21st century,” writes journalist Ed Hazell in the liner notes. “And they put that knowledge to use in subtle and beautiful ways on this album of duets.” The pieces, most of which are completely improvised, reference such diverse elements as Congolese mythology, Delta blues, Sun Ra, a muezzin’s call to prayer and the sonorities of traditional instruments such as the oud, kora and African thumb piano. The duo also adds two original compositions to the mix, as well as interpretations of music by Thelonious Monk and John Tchicai.
…two of Boston’s most adventurous guitarists…
—Kevin Lowenthal, Boston Globe
…this extraordinary duo session makes most of Bill Frisell’s records seem one-dimensional.
—Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings, 9th Edition
This freewheeling pan-cultural duo helps show that jazz’s family tree has some pretty deep roots.
—Nathan Turk, Signal To Noise
Fewell and Hofbauer are both players acutely aware of the sonic potential their instrument has to offer, and that awareness is one of the many qualities that combine to lift the music on The Lady Of Khartoum well above the run-of-the-mill…the duo’s economy lends to the proceedings the kind of dignity that seems like an increasingly rare quality. It all adds up to something special in the sense that the very restricted tonal palette that two guitars can offer is effectively trumped by the wealth of ideas and the sharp musical reflexes of the two players concerned.
—Nic Jones, AllAboutJazz.com
…this duet session from Boston-area guitarists Garrison Fewell and Eric Hofbauer both dazzles and beguiles…A diaspora of titles alludes to the wide ranging influences brought to bear through this delightful but uncompromising set…[a] richly rewarding disc, resonant of other cultures and other times, yet firmly of its own.
—John Sharpe, AllAboutJazz.com
Like conversations between two distant friends, the dialogs of these skilled improvisers speak of familiar and unfamiliar territories that are at many times intriguing and trans-cultural. The opening dissonant plucks heard on the “Prologue: Before the Dream,” the gut-bucket blues in “Dogon Delta Blues,” or the rural patchwork of the title selection, all suggest locales that are at once foreign and native. The recording ends with its longest and most emotive number, “Farsighted Friendship,” a fitting conclusion to a memorable work of creativity.
—Mark F. Turner, AllAboutJazz.com
This seemingly unmatched pair join beautifully in a program of progressive ethnic-influenced music that taps from bop and fusion, Middle Eastern folk forms, and much freedom. What sets them apart, especially evident on the title track, is the resonant use of sticks on strings, combining Arabic inferences with a Western sensibility. Where guitar fans should find this intriguing to the nth degree, the general public interested in improvised music should also find that Fewell and Hofbauer make compelling music worth more that a few listens.
—Michael G. Nastos, All Music Guide
Their deconstructions are deft and inventive, as is their postmodern reconstruction of “Bye Bye Blackbird” as “A Cajun Raven”. The gorgeous drift of “Farsighted Friendship”, which occupies the same territory as one of Loren Connors’s airs, brings things nicely to a close.
—Brian Marley, The Wire
The Lady of Khartoum is a beauty that emerged as Hofbauer and Fewell discussed their disparate interests—Fewell’s world travels, Hofbauer’s teaching gigs, and “different musical techniques that bridge the cultural divide”…the freely improvised tracks are impressive for their consistent mood. Ten percent of sales from this lucid, affecting CD goes to Mercy Corps.
—Jon Garelick, Boston Phoenix
The Lady of Khartoum, a series of duets between the Boston guitarists Garrison Fewell and Eric Hofbauer, is a lesson in advanced harmonics as well as a tour of global improvised music. You hear Louisiana, Africa, and the Middle East in these songs crafted from two guitars and a boxful of percussive toys. It’s ecelctic, that’s for sure.
—Steve Greenlee, JazzTimes
Two criminally undersung guitarists meet for a gentle but probing series of duets on The Lady of Khartoum…a love song to the guitar, in all its idiomatic strangeness, by two fine practicioners. And it’s a vibrant, imaginative, and—wait for it—fun record.
—Jason Bivins, Cadence
Tracks like “Dogon Delta Blues” and “Devil at the Salang Pass” are adventurous and quirky, exploring the boundaries of the guitar’s sonic possibilities. “Farsighted Friendship”, a John Tchicai composition (Fewell is a long-time collaborator), is a fitting closing tune, beautiful and contemplative.
—Karen Hogg, AllAboutJazz-New York
The Fewell/Hofbauer duo has issued a fascinating CD, The Lady of Khartoum, with a program that blends influences as far-flung as Mississippi Delta Blues, the villages of West Africa, and the Arab world.
—Richard Kamins, Hartford Courant
guitar, slide, sticks, bells and percussion
guitar, metal box, sticks and percussion
01. Prologue: Before the Dream (1:40)
02. The Lady of Khartoum (4:00)
03. Dogon Delta Blues (2:38)
04. Comfort for an Affliction (6:09)
05. Devil at the Salang Pass (3:38)
06. Ma’at’s Mood (1:10)
07. Let’s Cool One (2:55)
08. Eyes of Nkisi (1:48)
09. A Bourbour’s Spell (4:13)
10. Loose Life (2:43)
11. A Cajun Raven (3:47)
12. We Need Your Number (3:48)
13. The Returning Serpent (2:38)
14. Backyard Free Bop (1:29)
15. Farsighted Friendship (6:18)
All tracks composed by Fewell/Hofbauer, except 7
(Monk), 12 (Tchicai/Fewell), 13 (Hofbauer) and 15
Recorded April and May 2006 at Bristol Studios
in Boston, MA.