In the Heart of the Moon is a summit meeting between two world music giants, guitarist Ali Farka Toure and master of the kora-the 21-string gourd harp-toumani Diabate. It is the first newly recorded work from either artist in five years and their first album-length collaboration. More an eloquent, in-depth dialogue than a jam session, In The Heart Of the Moon was recorded during three unrehearsed, improvisatory two-hour sessions at the Hotel Mande, on the banks of the Niger river, in Bamako, Mali.
Ali Farka Toure fans expecting to hear another fiery electric blues effort from the African John Lee Hooker are in for a big surprise. Toure's first album after a six- year hiatus is mostly an acoustic duo with kora master Toumani Diabate that draws upon Malian and Guinean folk style from the 1950s and '60s called Jamana Kura, which grew out of the Mande griot music tradition. Both musicians were children at the time this music was popularized and a yearning sentimentality flavors many of the songs, particularly "Hawa Dolo," one of three Toure tunes rerecorded here in that older style. Other surprises abound as well: there are only two vocal tracks from the deep-voice Toure, and much of the soloing is actually handled by the flittering Diabate. Minus a few overdubs by guests like Ry Cooder, the music here were first takes from a jam session in which the two musicians would improvising over the basic structures. Nonetheless, this loose approach matched with the stunning beauty of the playing makes it a treasure worth holding on to. --Tad Hendrickson