Ballake Sissoko & Vincent Segal | Maurer Hall, Old Town School of Folk Music | International | Chicago Reader
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Ballake Sissoko & Vincent Segal 

When: Sun., March 10, 7 p.m. 2013
Price: $25, $23 members
In the press materials for his beautiful new album, At Peace (Six Degrees), Malian kora virtuoso Ballaké Sissoko says he didn’t want to repeat himself by recording more of the tender duets he cut with French cellist Vincent Segal for his previous album, Chamber Music. He wanted to “work on its continuation,” he says—though it’s hardly clear what the difference is. At Peace consists of solo pieces as well as duo and trio cuts with fellow Malians, including balafon player Fassery Diabaté and guitarists Moussa Diabaté and Aboubacar “Badian” Diabaté; Segal also turns up on four tracks. A dazzling lattice of sparkling, resonant strings dominates the sound of the album, which like its predecessor is characterized by lyrical splendor, refined interaction, and hushed intimacy. Over the years Sissoko’s yen for cross-cultural collaboration has led him to work with all sorts of musicians—American bluesman Taj Mahal, somewhat treacly Italian minimalist pianist Ludovico Einaudi, and many more—and it’s clear that he relishes the challenges of communicating across those divides without insulting the traditions that nurtured him. Even on At Peace’s unexpected cover of “Asa Brança,” a Brazilian forro classic by Luiz Gonzaga, he holds fast to the distinctive character of his spindly, sweet-toned lines and meticulously constructed improvisations. If everybody still doing the world-in-a-blender thing would follow Sissoko’s lead instead, international music would be in better shape. Tonight he’s appearing in his duo with Segal, which impressed Chicago audiences during the 2011 World Music Festival. —Peter Margasak

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