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Album review: Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabete, 'Ali and Toumani'

Toumani "Ali and Toumani" contains the final recordings made by a pair of master musicians: the Malian guitarist Ali Farka Touré, who died in 2006, and the Cuban bassist Orlando "Cachaíto" Lopez, who died last year. But this 11-track album -- the second collection of collaborations by Touré and the Malian kora player Toumani Diabeté -- doesn't sound like death. Rather, it's an early contender for the warmest, most life-affirming listen of 2010.

As it was on the 2005 Grammy-winning "In the Heart of the Moon," the setup here is exceedingly simple. Shortly before a European tour in support of "Moon," that album's producer, Nick Gold, booked a London studio for three days and told Touré and Diabeté (along with a small cast of players) to do their thing. And so they did, running through material from each of their songbooks as well as a handful of African traditionals, including "Sina Mory," which Gold reveals in the album's liner notes was the tune that originally inspired Touré to play guitar.

Floating atop a gentle heartbeat pulse laid down by Lopez on bass and Touré's son Vieux on congas, the two principals trade licks with an intimacy that speaks of friendship but also of a shared understanding.

--Mikael Wood

Ali Farka Touré & Toumani Diabeté
"Ali and Toumani"
World Circuit/Nonesuch
Three and a half stars
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