Jerry Leake | Crafty Hands

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Crafty Hands

by Jerry Leake

The origins of traditional African and Indian music are creatively woven into World-Rock-Fusion soundscapes that captivate the imagination where each track is an intricate temporal construction, almost like a rhythmic puzzle.
Genre: World: African
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
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1. Crafty Hands
5:10 $0.99
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2. Apprentice
5:38 $0.99
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3. Time Tunnel
5:48 $0.99
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4. Do You Think Your Thoughts
4:22 $0.99
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5. Blue Water
2:33 $0.99
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6. Alchemy
3:32 $0.99
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7. String Theory
4:08 $0.99
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8. Mr Gong Prelude
2:14 $0.99
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9. Mr Gong
5:15 $0.99
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10. Tarang
2:11 $0.99
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11. Dub Clef
5:38 $0.99
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12. Quarks
2:26 $0.99
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13. Begin by Listening
4:44 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
(click "Read More" for reviews)

“Crafty Hands” is my 7th CD produced at Squam Sound with Randy Roos at the helm as engineer, player, and co-composer on several tracks. I first pioneered the genre “World-Rock-Fusion” with three previous “Cubist” CDs, discovering that there is no limit to the possibilities for combining musical cultures. On this CD, my philosophy, and passion for placing ancient rhythms into modern soundscapes has reached a new and exciting level.

The opening title track draws from deep roots in Ewe music, Flamenco bulerias, Ashanti bell and shaker patterns, Moroccan frame drum and metal castanets, Dagomba gung-gong repertoire, and sabar grooves and baks (breaks) from Senegal. Randy’s nylon string guitar is woven within ambient electronic sounds and metallic percussion.

Five other tracks trace origins to traditional repertoire of the Dagomba people of Northern Ghana. Dagombas play double-headed drums that are worn around the shoulder and struck with a curved stick: lunga (talking drum) and gung-gong (bass drum). The second track entitled “Apprentice” is built around an original Dagomba groove and melody that features three students from my Berklee Global Jazz class. These Dagomba-inspired compositions are dedicated to my late great teacher Alhaji Dolsi-naa Abubakari Lunna.

Other tracks feature keyboard maestro Steve Hunt and the ingenious Mr. Rourke on turntables and samples. As one sample elegantly states: Begin by Listening…


Personnel:
Jerry Leake – African & Indian percussion, drum set, vocals, vibraphone
Randy Roos – guitars, bass
Steve Hunt – keyboards
Mr. Rourke – turntables/samples
Santiago Bosch – e. piano
Roni Eytan – harmonica
Max Gerl – e. bass


Reviews:
“Few percussionists have invested as much energy into the teaching and performing of the cross-pollination of North/South Indian and West African Music; when you add the experience of being a jazz vibraphonist to that journey, it becomes a place where few people share such a broad spectrum in their approach to music. All of us Westerners who encounter diverse musical gardens with open hearts realize that our musical journeys are going to be a long, deep commitment to traditions and knowledge that are not the original sounds and rhythms of life that we were imprinted with as young children. Finding the meaning of it all in a way that really speaks to our lives is the goal and Jerry has found his way to tell his story here on Crafty Hands! Whether it is West African drumming, North India tabla playing, frame drumming, Tabla Tarang, Vibraphone, or digital scratching, Jerry goes after it and weaves it into his compositions.”
– Jamey Haddad, Professor, Oberlin Conservatory; Paul Simon percussionist

“The interesting trick multi percussionist Leake pulls off once again is that he makes compelling world music by and for white people. Any self-respecting armchair traveler will get into these grooves without feeling like they’re being pandered to with a gift shop or ethnic restaurant record. Smartly layered and well textured, this world/rock fusion epic leads you down different streets and back alleys that the normal world/jazz date would—and these are streets well worth checking out. A must if you enjoy digging into meaty, creative music that isn’t work to listen to and enjoy. Well done!”
– Chris Spector, Midwest Record

“I really love the kick of the Crafty Hands! Jerry, you are the type of global musician we need in this era, the way you think and write your music with the intention of bringing different cultural traditions together in one song or CD is just smooth. So proud of your work and what you are doing!”
– Nani Agbeli, Professor of African Music, CalArts

“Jerry Leake has studied West African music deeply, for many years. From this basis of knowledge, Crafty Hands ventures into creative realms that engage the many styles of music he loves especially Jazz and Indian Music. All of the CD projects Jerry has produced are great but I particularly admire this one. Using traditional Ewe and Dagomba music with taste and respect, he has composed, produced and performed music that sounds wonderful on first listening and rewards repeated deep listening. Each track is an intricate temporal construction, almost like a rhythmic puzzle. Put on your headphones and join Jerry on his temporal adventures.”
– David Locke, Chair, Music Department, Tufts University

“I listened closely to your recordings, and they are great! What I like is the diversity of all the sounds you creatively assemble into meaningful compositions and improvisations, not an easy thing to do—vibraphone, percussion, tabla, African instruments, drumset, voice, all of it creative. Each piece has its own identity and feel and makes every new track something of an adventure. Great playing and concepts and your music is happening!”
– Royal Hartigan, Fulbright Scholar to the Philippines, 2006; to Ghana, West Africa, 2014-15; Professor, Music Department College of Visual and Performing Arts Umass Dartmouth

“Your playing is so diverse and musical. And I am blown away by how many different sounds are coming off this recording. The recording itself sounds so natural, and all of the percussion sounds are earthy to the core. I am aware, of course, of your incredible drumming, but had no idea how prolific you are with mallets and vibraphone. Your music and your playing is so refreshing. It puts me in that ‘good place’ humans get to go to sometimes, if they are lucky. Awesome!!!”
– Rod Morgenstein, Professor, Berklee College of Music; drummer: Dixie Dregs, Winger

“I enjoyed Crafty Hands a lot! It’s a great mix of African rhythms, rock, current jazz, with a unique sound. Congratulations!”
– Laszlo Gardony, Piano Professor, Berklee College of Music, composer

“World-spanning percussionist, has a dozen or so albums as well as the books that helped name his label, but draws mostly on African and Indian here, plus a standard drum set, vibraphone. The others add to the “world-rock fusion” -- eclectic is their motto, making most of this enchanting.”
– Tom Hull on the Web

“Let your ears hear what they want to hear—it’s all just sound, sound, sound.” These are the words on Jerry Leake’s final track on his brilliant new CD, ‘Crafty Hands.’ Jerry is more than a master percussionist of so many mingled traditions. He is a composer with a fertile imagination for the combination of old traditional rhythms, songs, and drums of Africa and India with unique ensembles of multi-tracking with guitarist Randy Roos, turntable and samples of Mr. Rourke, the jazz pianos of Santiago Bosch and Steve Hunt, and other contributors. Jerry himself offers up captivating solos of his virtuoso vibraphone playing and tabla tarang as wells as Ewe and Dagomba ensemble traditions presented in vocally unique polyphonic settings. His lead collaborator is guitarist Randy Roos (also the engineer for the recording), who blends eclectic acoustic and electric guitar sounds that range from clever and appealing ostinatos to wailing solos. Varied, explosive, meditative—‘Crafty Hands’ is an important and creative contribution to contemporary music.”
– George Ruckert, PhD, Senior Lecturer Emeritus, MIT; senior disciple of Indian sarod master, Ali Akbar Khan; author of five books on Indian classical music.

“Thank you so much for your CD, ‘Crafty Hands.’ I think you’ve really outdone yourself with this one! Terrific grooves, wonderful vocal harmonies, and kicking harmonica! You must have spent the night in the studio on multiple occasions. This is really a splendid recording. Congratulations!”
– B. Michael Williams, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Music Winthrop University

“Jerry has the privilege of being one of very select group percussionists that have immersed themselves in many world traditions. From African to Indian and beyond, his palette of sounds forms a rich tapestry of musical harmony.”
– Pete Lockett, world-percussionist, author

“If you believe that the music resides in the details, ‘Crafty Hands’ is your proof. They are all seamlessly woven into the deeply layered rhythmic and harmonic tapestry that Jerry Leake, Randy Roos, and friends have created.”
– Skip Hadden, Professor: Berklee College, clinician, drummer

“Multi-percussion wizard Jerry Leake, deeply steeped in transcontinental musical explorations for decades, aptly applies his ‘Crafty Hands’ to a brand new solo recording that not only fully deserves it title but also masterfully succeeds in turning age-old, yet timeless West-African repertoire into highly accessible, contemporary soundscapes. Whether wielding tabla, turntable, or talking drum—tasteful transcendence of roots is what Mr. Leake and his eclectic cast of guests are all about. And all WE need to do is to follow that playful invitation extended by one of this release’s many superb tracks — “Begin by Listening”!
– Bertram Lehmann, Percussion Dept. Faculty, Berklee College of Music

“Excellent CD! You have such a nice voice… very mesmerizing… calming… I love the vibe of the 1st tune especially!!!! Meditative… AND you are one talented guy!!! So many percussion instruments AND I got such a strong visual when I listen to it… I see a movie… John Williams look out! Honest… it tells a story and it’s so eclectic… I hear/see each take for the next scene… You are the composing man!”
– Jon Hazilla, Professor of Percussion, Berklee College of Music

“Jerry Leake is a master of rhythm, texture, color—a multi instrumentalist playing an impressive array of percussion instruments from all over the world. ‘Crafty Hands’ is a testament to his broad musical scope as he takes the listener on an engaging and exciting journey through soundscapes and different musical environments. Jerry’s undeniable groove is the engine that propels the music, the way a heartbeat provides lifeblood to the human body.”
– Marko Djordjevic, Assistant Percussion Professor, Berklee College

“Love the cd. BRAVO”
– Bob Gulotti, Professor, Berklee College

“Jerry Leake is a groove master whose uplifting approach carries through in a diverse range of styles evident on this CD. From his strong voice singing a traditional Ewe song, to his sophisticated percussion styles and engrossing acoustic sound effects, Jerry matches his talent to the music at hand. I especially recommend track 1, 'Crafty Hands,' the namesake of the CD, which I hope will get some radio airplay, and the percussion grooves on tracks 2 and 3.”
– Brita Heimarck, Associate Professor of Music, Boston University

“I’m loving your new cd! Amazing soundscapes grooves and instrumentation!”
– Bruno Raberg, Professor, Berklee College of Music, composer, bassist

“Crafty Hands is a fantastic work of dedication and I very much appreciate the diversity in your art. I love Randy Roos’ sounds too!”
– Mehmet Sanlikol, composer, educator, author

“Crafty Hands is master percussionist Jerry Leake’s newest world percussion tour de force. Featuring an impressive array of instruments from around the globe — tabla, gungon, vibraphone, sabar, pandeiro, and drumset, to name a few — Jerry forges new and unique fusions of world music traditions in a way that few others can. The skillful guitar playing of long-time collaborator Randy Roos adds a deeply melodic, and harmonic component to Jerry’s percussive soundscapes and gentler yet virtuosic solo musical interludes offer dynamic contrast. If you would like to hear the culmination of a lifetime of study of world percussion by one of Boston’s most renowned drummers, Crafty Hands is the album for you!”
– Ben Paulding, Drum Leader of the Agbekor Drum and Dance Society, Director of Fafali Music and Dance Ensemble at Brandeis University


ANCIENT RHYTHMS HOOKED ON MODERN SOUNDSCAPES
Jerry Leake – Crafty Hands (2017)

American percussionist Jerry Leake has recorded a superb album where he explores various musical genres. Leake is best known for his Cubist projects where he fused world music, rock and jazz-rock. Crafty Hands is album dedicated to percussion and it’s a true delight. Jerry Leake uses an arsenal of percussion instruments drawn from many different global cultures, creating a rich and masterfully-crafted palette of rhythms. However, Leake is joined by other musicians, who enrich his work and take the fusion even further, incorporating jazz, rock, and ambient electronic music.

The opening piece, “Crafty Hands,” sets the tone with a traditional Ewe song where he uses a mix of instruments from three of Ghana’s ethnic groups, the Ewe, Dagomba and Ashanti. On top of this he layers Senegalese sabar beats, Moroccan frame drum and karkabas (metal castanets) and well as complex flamenco bulerias. Here, Leake is accompanied by guitars.

On the second piece, an original titled “Apprentice” the music turns electric and more jazz fusion-oriented, combining powerful drum set beats, electric bass, piano and guitar with harmonica along with various other percussion instruments. It’s based on a Dagomba rhythm and melody and showcases the talent of three students from Leake’s Berklee Global Jazz class.

“Time Tunnel” is total jazz-rock fusion featuring fantastic synth solos that recall Joe Zawinul, electric guitars that echo Bill Frisell and Leake’s wide-range of percussion, ranging from marimba to tabla and drum set.

On Track 4, “Do you Think Your Thought” Leake invited DJ Mr. Rourke, who adds hip hop vocal samples that are combined with various drums.

“Blue Water” is a short shamanic composition with a flute that sounds Native American along with percussion, water sounds and resonator guitar.

Track 6 features a mesmerizing solo vibraphone performance titled “Alchemy.”

“String Theory” has some of the best electric guitar work on the album, with a soaring guitar that progresses beautifully accompanied by an assortment of irresistible rhythms.

The brief “Mr. Gong Prelude” highlights the gong accompanied by thunder tube. It leads into a traditional Dagombe song titled “Mr. Gong”, where Afro-roots fusion returns with rock-style guitar and outstanding percussion.

Track 10, “Tarang” is a tabla solo by Leake.

The remarkable sound of the talking drum opens “Dub Clef,” another traditional Dagombe tune that is reconstructed as a jazz-rock piece with electric and acoustic guitars and more masterful percussion structures. This piece has very close connections to the sound you’ll find on the Cubist albums.

The solo vibraphone reappears on track 12, “Quarks.”

Mr. Rourke returns with his turntables and samples on the last track, “Begin by Listening”. Spoken word and ethnic vocal samples sound much better than rap in the context of world music. Leake adds trance-like beats. Buy Crafty Hands!
– Angel Romero, World Music Central


Boston-based world-rock-fusion percussionist Jerry Leake is a special kind of musician. He deftly moves in and through numerous traditions from around the world – with deep respect and gratitude – yet also comfortably resides in contemporary styles and forms. But more than that, in his latest release, Crafty Hands (2016), Jerry offers listeners new pieces in which he combines and recombines his many musical interests and passions. One could use words such as “eclectic” and “collage” to describe the results, but these do not adequately capture the coherence and musically satisfying nature of Jerry’s accomplishments. The image that comes to my mind is of a colorful kaleidoscope, where an ever-so-slight turn shifts distinct bits into an entirely new and vibrant pattern. One can listen to and for the distinct musical inflections or instruments from West Africa, the Middle East, and India, but it is the coherent new soundscapes—always delightful and often deeply moving—that really matter.

Throughout the 13 tracks of Crafty Hands, Leake sets up wonderful grooves over which he lays out densely textured but changing surfaces. Tracks such as “Crafty Hands,” “Apprentice,” “Do You Think Your Thoughts,” “Dub Clef,” and “Begin by Listening” start with West African rhythmic cells and/or textures that incorporate West African timbres but quickly add more and more component parts until their full musical vistas emerge. In “Crafty Hands,” Jerry’s own singing voice takes center stage by mid-track, surrounded by a halo of bells, shakers, and strings, before the opening textures and grooves reassert themselves. In “Begin by Listening”—one of my favorite tracks—an appropriately authoritative voice assures us “It’s all just sounds” as the West African groove provides the foundation for that voice, a turntable, distorted, sampled chanting, and a jubilant reed to each make contributions. And just when you think this track or others have settled into their final textural forms, still there are more twists and turns as Jerry continues to transform his materials.

My brief comments only scratch the surface of Jerry’s music, and they completely fail to capture the beauty of “Time Tunnel” and “String Theory,” two more of my favorites. Here again, Jerry sets up grooves and amazing, changing surfaces, yet the timbres and combinations are different enough in these two tracks from those in the others that the album remains fresh and unpredictable. And then Jerry drops into your headphones a track such as “Blue Water,” which diverges significantly from the others, and you are once more left in awe of his creativity and ability to synthesize new worlds of sound.

The bottom line? Crafty Hands is an album of gorgeous music that will reward repeated listening. But it is also an album with a powerful — if implicit — political message. While there are relatively few words, and those that exist are not overtly political, Jerry’s soundscapes both celebrate and embody cultural diversity and the new possibilities that can emerge as we draw upon the best of all of us. Whether intended or not, that is a profoundly important political, social, and cultural statement. As the final track urges us, “Begin by listening.”
– Stan Pelkey, Associate Dean of Community Engagement and Entrepreneurship: College of Music at Florida State University, Scholar, Educator, Musician

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Reviews


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Tom Ulichny

Crafty Hands - wow...
This album is a true example of contemporary world fusion in its finest form. Jerry manages to blend an incredible number of ethnic instruments and textures in a creative and intelligent way that promotes the listener to continue exploring the boundaries of what is possible if we embrace the exploration of combining musical cultures. Each track is very unique with a plethora of different vibes, yet feels cohesive as an overall project. Absolutely a joy to listen to. In a word, wow.
Read more...

Juli Purcell Powers

Crafty Hands
Crafty Hands is another thought provoking creation by composer and percussion artist Jerry Leake. Layers of rich color are intertwined with sometime simple and often intricate, constant rhythm. The music is both soothing and energizing. It is a joy to hear what is on Jerry's creative mind and how it comes together with all of the artists!
Read more...

Jere Faison

Prestidigitation
Sleight of hand (also known as prestidigitation or legerdemain) refers to fine motor skills when used by performing artists in different art forms to entertain or manipulate. Jerry's deftness with his hands is on par with the level of skill needed by master magicians. And like a master magician, Jerry has taken the "tricks" he's picked up from masters of several cultures and very much made them his own. I have the benefit of having played with Jerry in both traditional and modern contexts and have witnessed first hand the fluidity with which he flows between the genres. Crafty Hands is another evolution in his journey between the worlds. His approach is to find the underlying threads that weave these traditions together and recombine them in a way as to bring out the essential unity he finds in them. And, by bringing in modern instrumentation and production, he uses this fulcrum to give these ancient and sacred rhythms a new foundation. Many master percussionists focus solely on one tradition while Jerry has spread his tent over several and brings them in to his palette, creating soundscapes that invite a visionary experience, much like an experienced guide taking you on a world tour. I highly recommend Crafty Hands and all of his recordings. His work is not just entertaining. It is informative like the aesthetic of an ethnomusicalogical study and encodes and documents oral tradition in a way that honors and respects their cultural origins.
Read more...

Dean Marcellana

Crafty Hands
Borrowing a quote from Duke Ellington, the musical offering of CRAFTY HANDS (by Jerry Leake and his aggregation of very fine colleagues), is BEYOND CATEGORY! This is an exquisite musical work. Be prepared for an exciting and surprising musical adventure;-)
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Jared Steer

Crafty Hands redefines the definition of world music
Jerry Leake's latest offering, Crafty Hands, redefines the idea of world music and fuses it as a one world concept. There are no boundaries on this album. Jerry is well rooted in North/South Indian, West African, Jazz, and fusion tradition and has beautifully blended musical ideas relevant to today. His writing is deep and compositional; each cut is thoughtful,colorful and engaging. The listener can hear the decades of study and experience culminated in this master musician/percussionists work. Highly recommended for all percussionists and musicians alike.
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Mitch Hayes

Well Crafted !
Jerry's music has always been unique...blending and bending genres effortlessly! Of course the rhythms are incredible, but the melodies, the writing, and the playing are top notch as well. After I was done trying to diagnose and dissect the rhythms (a difficult task with Jerry!).....I just let it played, and let the music carry me away. Well done my friend !!
Read more...

Jere Faison

Prestidigitation
Sleight of hand (also known as prestidigitation or legerdemain) refers to fine motor skills when used by performing artists in different art forms to entertain or manipulate. Jerry's deftness with his hands is on par with the level of skill needed by master magicians. And like a master magician, Jerry has taken the "tricks" he's picked up from masters of several cultures and very much made them his own. I have the benefit of having played with Jerry in both traditional and modern contexts and have witnessed first hand the fluidity with which he flows between the genres. Crafty Hands is another evolution in his journey between the worlds. His approach is to find the underlying threads that weave these traditions together and recombine them in a way as to bring out the essential unity he finds in them. And, by bringing in modern instrumentation and production, he uses this fulcrum to give these ancient and sacred rhythms a new foundation. Many master percussionists focus solely on one tradition while Jerry has spread his tent over several and brings them in to his palette, creating soundscapes that invite a visionary experience, much like an experienced guide taking you on a world tour. I highly recommend Crafty Hands and all of his recordings. His work is not just entertaining. It is informative like the aesthetic of an ethnomusicalogical study and encodes and documents oral tradition in a way that honors and respects their cultural origins.
Read more...

Bill Spoke

Crafty Hands by Jerry Leake
This Jerry's finest work to date. A true Masterpiece.
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Dave Kohn

A Tour de Force by Jerry Leake!
Crafty Hands, the latest release by Jerry Leake, is an amazing CD by a master world percussionist at the height of his powers. Together with a supporting cast of other highly-skilled musicians, Jerry presents an expansive rhythmic and compositional palette, seamlessly blending diverse musical genres from across the globe and creating his own unique sound. This is a must-have release for all percussionists and drummers -- and for everyone who appreciates the great traditions that influence modern music. Jerry's hands are not just crafty -- they are inspired!
Read more...

Crafty Hands

Layers of Rich Color
Crafty Hands is another thought provoking recording by composer and percussion artist Jerry Leake. Layers of rich color are intertwined with sometimes simple and often intricate, constant rhythm. The music is both soothing and energizing. It is a joy to hear the creative collaboration of the artists.
Read more...
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