ESTAMOS ENSEMBLE – Jimpani Kustakwa Ka Jankwariteecherï


The barely pronounceable title means “compositions and improvisations” in an idiom utilized in certain Mexican rural communities. Estamos Ensemble is an assembly of improvisers from US and Mexico gathered by Thollem McDonas in the hope of an increased communication between artists from these neighbouring countries. Having started activities in 2009, the collective is now immortalized in a 2-CD set featuring sixteen tracks. These include, for the large part, materials comprising a mixture of written and open/improvised scores; several duets and a version of Cage’s 4’33” based on field recordings captured at the Nogales Border Wall complete the selections.

The heterogeneity of the involved personalities, both in terms of sheer fame and instrumental individuality, does not constitute an impediment for the enjoyment of numerous chunks of finely organized music. One is easily attracted by names like McDonas himself, Vinny Golia, Nels Cline, William Parker, Pauline Oliveros. But there’s no denying that some of the most fascinating moments come from less recognized entities: the initial “Edeghoyeneegheleedeneek” – a duet for vocals, cello and electronics by Theresa Wong and Carmina Escobar – is haunting, to say the least. On the other hand, Oliveros’ “Olas, Sobre Las Olas” is as peculiar an episode as you’ll be able to experience from the “mother of deep listening”; a fragmentary, variegated surprise of a piece.

Finding a collection of acoustic situations from such a diverse range of instrumentalists that keeps its consistency throughout a double album is rare; there are no weak points whatsoever, though we’re also far from the masterpiece status. It’s a welcome occasion to learn more about new musicians – a number of them absolutely mysterious to me before welcoming their performance here – in a socially relevant context mostly characterized by brilliant playing. The lack of memorable peaks notwithstanding, Jimpani Kustakwa Ka Jankwariteecherï stands as an authentication of serious commitment to a significant issue.

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