Pascal Bokar: When Lights Are Low


When Lights Are Low


Pascal Bokar (guitar)


Savanna Jazz Club (Savanna Jazz Records SJR 3000)

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Pascal Bokar (guitar),

Mike Greensill (piano), Ed Williams (bass), Donald “Duck” Bailey (drums)


Composed by Benny Carter


Recorded: San Francisco, CA, February 2006


Rating: 85/100 (learn more)

For over 20 years, Senegalese (now USA-transplanted) guitarist Pascal Bokar has been melding African traditional dance music with jazz. Along the way he has played with such jazz titans as Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Haynes and Donald Byrd. He has been releasing records of his own for over a decade.

Bokar's interesting and pleasing interpretation of the Benny Carter-penned "When Lights Are Low" is an exception among the bebop-inflected standards, permeated with an abundance of African rhythms and occasional vocalese, that comprise Savanna Jazz Club. Bokar is a fine jazz guitarist more than capable of sustaining absorbing straight-ahead or bebop lines that stand up against the quality of the best players. But while the "African-ness" is at a lower ebb than on most of the other cuts, this track retains a distinct and unusual African character thanks to Bokar's unique style of occasionally striking muted strings in a melodic yet percussive manner. It almost sounds as if he is playing the kalimba, an African percussion instrument. He uses this style to great success in establishing the tune's opening theme. According to the liner notes, Bokar calls this style "balafonics." Whatever it is called, it is cool to listen to.

Bailey, Greensill and Williams ably assist Bokar in taking this sing-songy number into an impressive blues realm before returning to the uplifting kalimba-sounding introduction for its coda. A fun time has been had by all.

Reviewer: Walter Kolosky

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