In 2017 I had the honor to direct a documentary about the American jazz quartet blood drum spirit that in 2015 traveled to Ghana to work with master artists in rural villages and in the cities of Kumase and Accra.

The film documents the group’s decades-long journey, beginning with drummer royal hartigan, bassist Wes Brown, and saxophonist David Bindman studying and working with Ghanaian teachers in the USA, continuing with royal’s studies in Ghana over many years, and finally the group traveling to the same villages where royal learned many of the rhythms and songs that he had brought home for the quartet to arrange and perform.

The film shows the deep historical and aesthetic connections between jazz and West African music, and by extension, with the peoples of the world. blood drum spirit reaches into the history of African American traditions, while incorporating music from around the globe into original compositions and improvisations. Under hartigan’s leadership the quartet has toured in the USA, Asia, and West Africa, where ensemble members have lived and worked with people from different musical traditions. hartigan, Brown, and Bindman met at Wesleyan University in the early 1980s, and have worked together in various settings ever since, including with their teachers Abraham Kobena Adzenyah, Freeman Kwadzo Donkor and Kwabena Boateng in the jazz-highlife group Talking Drums. Pianist Art Hirahara joined the quartet in 2003.blood drum spirit / royal hartigan / David Bindman / Art Hirahara

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