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Idan Raichel is one of Israel's top-selling pop musicians. Vieux Farka Toure is a virtuoso guitarist from Mali. The two met by chance in a German airport, and when Toure played a concert in Tel Aviv, Raichel sat in. He enjoyed himself so much that he invited Toure and two other musicians to come to a studio the next day and jam. The music they created is now an album called The Tel Aviv Session.
Sometimes, the best collaborations are accidental. If Raichel and Toure had planned a collaboration, it's hard to imagine that they could have topped the casual charm of this impromptu encounter.
For this session, Raichel leaves aside his banks of keyboards and his large backing band, and mostly just plays piano, sometimes plucking its strings to create percussive, muted vamps and riffs. Toure, a rocking electric guitarist, sticks to his acoustic and shines. There's a spare rhythm section, and some guests make appearances, but the soul of this session is two nimble musicians, unfettered and comfortably at play.
Toure tends to set the stage here, mostly with music reminiscent of Malian folklore, while Raichel plays the foil, sometimes smoothing out Toure's rugged grooves and sometimes echoing the guitarist's distinctive filigree phrasing.
The Toure-Raichel Collective is now becoming a touring ensemble, aiming to preserve and even enhance the spontaneous magic of Raichel and Toure's initial encounter. The fact that the group features two Jewish Israelis and two Muslim Africans is interesting, but not really the point. These players delve into the swirling waters of our globalized music culture and pull out bright fish, almost perfect, as if designed instead of conjured in the heat of improvisation.