Imaginary Homeland: Reviews
Praise for the CD "Jump for George"
"It's a wonderful sound that the group has; it combines African xylophone, talking drums with American strings and jazz. You're in good company with Debussy and many other great composers who were highly influenced by… music of other cultures."
"An original, yet somehow deeply rooted, musical sound. [They] have found the non-existent link between Appalachian string bands, Ghanaian percussion, downtown jazz and a host of other ideas that miraculously fit together as if they had the deepest of ethnomusical roots."
"Imaginary Homeland brings together African xylophone, percussion, and talking drums with New York jazz and Appalachian fiddle in [a] seemingly impossible fusion. But from the opening strains of ‘Kanawha Girl’ they had me hooked. Here is an old-timey fiddle tune, the melody doubled on saxophone, given a wide-open swing by the acoustic bass, water-drum, frame drum, and body percussion. It moves from the straight traditional tune to rolling improvisations worthy of the best jazz ensembles. With praises to a dozen genres and fealty to none, this quartet is creating an original vocabulary that endorses both jazz and folk as equal partners in their own musical nation."
"A vibrant, often beautiful brand of global fusion music… Melodies inspired by wandering African violinists wail over talking drums. An African xylophone sings; gourd-instruments shake, rattle and roll; a saxophone sermonizes; a violin resonates with European classical double-stops, then pirouettes from African to Appalachian fancy fiddle riffs… Be sure to tune into Rogers’ all-embracing, spirited, spiritual sounds on this delightful disc."
“Rogers is an inventive and charismatic saxist, and as a bandleader he’s savvy enough to make optimal use of what he’s got: that’s not a mere violin Rice is sawing in the opening track, ‘Kanawha Girl’; it’s bona fide crazy-ass African hillbilly fiddle. When Rogers and Stone duel it out on lunndogo talking drums in their ‘Travelogue,’ you might as well be in the heart of an alternative African universe’s own Bonnaroo jam-band land. .. [In] the synthesis of jazz and world music… Rogers' pieces could only have been conjured via one thoroughly invested in the multiple traditions being considered--think Coltrane's relationship to Indian music.”
"We hear a great deal of talk about the fusion of different world musics… Far rarer, then, is… a group of musicians who, despite playing the same assortment of instruments from moment to moment, can affect a protean, globe-spanning attitude toward different musics… Imaginary Homeland, who really seem to grasp what it is to speak all of the world's languages fluently, have mastered that approach. From Appalachian folk chants to African rhythms and melodies to the Latin flavors of 'El Sonero', Imaginary Homeland's saxophone, violin, upright bass and percussion chart a course that is respectful of musical traditions, but seems blissfully unaware of the lines that divide them."
"These four make music that combines the best of contemporary jazz techniques with West African instruments, melodies, and rhythms. Unlike some world music amalgams, Imaginary Homeland is made up of musicians steeped in both traditions, who delve into the deeper mysteries of these cultures. Rogers is a melodic tenor player who doubles easily on talking drum, and Rice slips easily from Western violin playing to West African fiddling. All this is done with an infectious, lilting passion. The music makes you want to get up and dance, but you never want to stop listening!"
"Ever been to a Ghanaian hoedown? Ever met an Appalachian griot? If not, welcome to the world of Imaginary Homeland, a world where an ocean doesn't stand in the way of Afro-Appalacian-jazz collaboration. The CD opens with 'Kanawha Girl,' a name explained in the liner notes to come from the first choice of West Virginians for their pro-Union breakaway territory. Hand-drumming (Mark Stone), acoustic bass (Matt Pavolka), and sax (David Rogers) cruise along in a vaguely Afrojazz locale, until Marlene Rice's fiddling brings it back to Americana. The paired sax and violin on 'Mobius Trip' might bring to your lips the term 'ethnic jazz.' And 'Jump for George' has bass runs and sax riffs that would be at home in a jazz trio. But with the jazz elements accompanied by prominent hand drumming, bells, rattles, and xylophone, the 'jazz' label fails to encompass the fresh spirit of this music."
"Recommended new listening. Tenor saxophonist David Rogers… spent an extended period of time in Africa and immersed himself in the Ghanaian musical culture of the Dagbamba people. While there, he assimilated their drum-language and horse hair fiddle compositional forms into his already well-grounded mix of Africa and jazz. Upon returning to NYC, he composed and recorded a new blend based on his greater appreciation of the interrelationship of not only jazz, but also Appalachian fiddle, to the music of West Africa… Enough cannot be said for violinist Marlene Rice. She thrills with exciting jazz and captivating Appalachian techniques that cross continents. Rogers also displays his mastery of the 'talking drum' or lunna on several cuts, most notably the worldly funk of 'Travelogue'… [A] complex and stylistically mature quilt of jazz, Appalachia and Africa."
"Proof that music is a universal language… this fact reveals Rogers' restless spirit, a trait common to all great jazz men… He composed all of the songs… many of which feature his exquisite reed solos."
More praise for Imaginary Homeland
“In a time when it is easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of musical influences today's musicians confront, it is refreshing to hear approaches to synthesis which go beyond superficial skimming and actually involve a genuine assimilation and integration. In your music, African and jazz influences, among other things, are intertwined in a highly organic manner, generating unique and compelling hybrids.”
"Truly a highlight of this year's Professional Artists Series! The group performed with a high level of musicianship and outstanding ensemble work. This was new jazz as great chamber music. Your compositions offered our audience a rich and original kind of global music-combining counterpoint with improvisation, African instruments with Western strings."
"Imaginary Homeland dishes up a unique sonic meal which skillfully blends African musical influences with contemporary jazz. Bandleader Dave Rogers's dark, joyful compositions feature melodies that somersault across the barlines in unpredictable syncopations and enjambements. Rogers's peppery, motivic utterances on the saxophone provide a savory counterpoint to the soaring flow of Marlene Rice's violin. Percussionist Mark Stone's manic virtuosity--fusing Ghanaian, Ugandan, and American musical traditions--combines with Matt Pavolka's passionate bass lines to create an rich and varied polyrhythmic underpinning. It's an ensemble that speaks softly and carries a big groove."