Kane Mathis | Geminus Review
by Stamish Malcuss
Kane Mathis is a 21-string Mandinka Harp and Turkish Oud player that is creating stirring interpretations of traditional world music. His multi-instrumental abilities and focus on West African and Indian music allow him to combine these traditions with other cultures for an impressive listening experience. Mathis is now releasing his recording called Geminus, which features Mathis performing on both instruments and being joined by fellow New York-based musicians John Hadfield on drums (Yo-Yo Ma, Kinan Azmeh) and Sam Minaie on bass (Tigran Hamasyan, Mark Guiliana). Geminus was recorded and mixed by John Davis (Brad Mehldau) at The Bunker recording studio in Brooklyn, New York, in live sessions over 3 days. The trio presents ten Mathis originals.
“Route Des Jardins” is a Mathis original composition that blends the tradition of Gambian music and modern world music in a simply elegant manner. His Mandinka Harp playing in a trio setting is full, charismatic, and based in the Kumbengo tradition. Mathis maintains the original concept behind the rhythm of the Kumbengo and composes a strong melody and the form has a contemporary jazz/world-influenced solo section. The trio sets to establishing a groove-based unit as they all dig into the rhythms and those of African origin, as Mathis dazzles with his dexterity on the Mandinka Harp.
“Nikriz Sirto” is an original composition by Mathis that features his beautiful oud playing and a melody based on the tradition of classical Indian music. Hadfield’s percussion frames the trio with a propulsive energetic rhythm; Minaie lays the foundation as Mathis performs the punchy melody and freewheeling solo. Mathis is perhaps more of a modernist at heart, but the tradition upon which his music is grounded upon can still be heard.
Geminus reveals that Mathis is a master of old-school sounds that unite with modern ideas, forms, and innovations to create a warm, nostalgic outing of stirring music. Geminus is balanced in terms of energy and rhythmic power. There is much to admire in Mathis’ compositions, which encourage individual expression between the three players without diminishing the all-important feel. An intoxicating, pulsating ride of world music that is a joy to behold.