A drummer from the Bronx in Senegal should feel right at home, and Steve Reid apparently does on this collaboration, although he seems quite content to take a back seat, working with percussion and bass to build a platform for other instruments. There's no attempt to make the disc sound specifically African – what comes out is a natural mix of the jamming between the musicians (except for "Welcome," which features Isa Koyate, vocals, and very distinctive kora). There are touches of funk, Afro-beat, jazz ("Jiggy Jiggy") – just something amorphous, whose roots are definitely on one side of the Atlantic, but which have grown and developed elsewhere.
The unifying idea of the concerto provides a way to get a handle on György Ligeti's experimental spirit, for a concerto here represents several fundamentally different things. The Cello Concerto of 1966, right at the height of Ligeti's exuberantly fearless adventures in 1960s Germany, might almost be called an anti-concerto, with the cello doing its best to hang on the edge of silence. Sample the very first movement, both for the precision of cellist Christian Poltéra's work at the low end of the dynamic spectrum and for the ideally clean engineering work by the BIS label, operating in a variety of Norwegian venues and mastering them, well, masterfully. The Chamber Concerto for 13 Instruments and the Melodien are essentially concertos for orchestra, with distinctive roles for each of the instruments, while the five-movement Piano Concerto, completed in 1988, is a fine and technically demanding example of Ligeti's later pulse-based, polyrhythmic style. Throughout, Norway's BIT20 Ensemble, a group of flexible size, delivers superb Ligeti performances, with the requisite laser-like focus on individual details but not losing a certain liveliness and humor that underlie it all. A superior Ligeti album.