“With enough instruments between them for a full ensemble, jamming led to composing, which led to performing, which led to Tiny Planet. This collaboration combines exciting rhythms and unique melodies with influences from around the globe.”
Therein lies the cliff notes version of Tom Teasley and Seth Kibel’s “Tiny Planet.” It can be found as part of the liner notes fore the release and it sums up perfectly this 11-track whirlwind of world music that transports one’s consciousness from east to west on a dime. Teasley, the world-renowned percussionist, is known for his expertise on instruments like djembes and timbales. Kibel, meanwhile, is a master woodwind player, who grants a specific color to the textures Teasley concocts.
They combine for a set here that ultimately adds up to the musical equivalent of the “It’s A Small World” ride at Disneyland. Take “Desert Echoes,” which provides a true magic carpet ride, navigating ferociously through middle eastern nights as Kibel attacks his flute with both taste and flair. Teasley, meanwhile, knows Arabic grooves better than most anyone this side of the Atlantic and working together, the two musical minds create something utterly transformative.
More impressive is the duo’s ability to morph from Mali to Manhattan whenever they choose.
“Tappin It” showcases a left turn into jazz land, Teasley swinging along with a ride cymbal as Kibel riffs with his flute, taking an instrument not often associated with the music and cementing his own stamp on it with vigor and fearlessness. The drummer also holds his own, constantly adding quick-hit percussive rolls that grant the composition a worldly flair. It’s perhaps the most pleasant surprise here.
As for the longest track here, that award goes to “Frailach Medley,” which clocks in at nearly six-and-a-half minutes. Paying homage to their Jewish roots, both players display a relentlessness throughout that’s impossible not to respect. Kibel, especially, doesn’t hold back with a clarinet that locks in skintight with Teasley’s driving rhythm, guiding a journey as whimsical as it is inspired.
“New Song For The Old City,” on the other hand, is a showcase for Teasley’s audacity, his performance rushing through the speakers like a waterfall that gives way to the crash of liquid on liquid. Not only does the drummer lead in the song with an aggressively dance-able polyrhythm, but throughout the impending three-and-a-half minutes, the commitment to his craft only becomes more tangible as he exposes his soul through his drums. It’s some of his most motivated work on record.
Other tracks play their respective roles with a tiny bit of predictability and a whole lot of creativity. Opener “Seven Seas” is what you would expect from a collaboration like this, utilizing everything from a Roland HandSonic to claves to an African bell to a synthesizer to, of course, a clarinet. It’s one of the few songs that doesn’t fall neatly into any one genre, be it world or jazz or fusion. Instead, it turns out to be an amalgam of everything these guys do best, and it sets the tone exquisitely for what’s to come.
Like “Pocket Monk,” which swings tremendously as Teasley shows off his jazz chops and Kibel provides a tenor sax that would fit well on Bourbon Street. It’s the farthest these guys get from the Middle Eastern vibe and it serves them well. “Meditation For Jabal” eventually comes around, though, and says “not so fast” as it ends the set with distinctly worldly textures, Kibel’s clarinet venturing deep into the desert while Teasley’s atmospheric percussion fills out an ominous vibe that only grows with intensity before ultimately saying goodbye, not only to the song, but to the record.
And, all told, by the time you get there, you’ll most likely be ready to catch a plane back home, exhausted from the extensive travel you just experienced. That’s OK, though, because the journey was worth it, from the hot sun of the Middle East to the rain-soaked streets outside The Blue Note, all the way to the breath-taking scenes of Jerusalem, it’s the best vacation headphones can provide.
A Tiny Planet, maybe. Big ideas, definitely.
*** 3 STARS OUT OF 4 ***