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Jazz Spawns an Unlikely Party Jam

Flügelschlag! inventively combines jazz, funk and German techno music.
Flügelschlag! inventively combines jazz, funk and German techno music.

If Herbie Hancock, Kraftwerk and Alan Lomax embarked on a field-recording expedition in Senegal, their collaboration might resemble Flügelschlag!'s exhilarating "Mendiani." Band members Gert Wilden Jr., Andy Lutter and Ralf Schmid all play prepared piano, creating a musical concoction that is, in the words of Duke Ellington, "beyond category," touching on jazz, electronica and indigenous Senegalese music.

"Mendiani" opens sparsely, peppering African chatter with pointillist piano notes, but as the song generates momentum and becomes more percussive, conventional piano sounds emerge to reveal a master groove. The bluesy phrasing and unpredictable group interaction fit somewhere between hard-bop and early jazz-funk, while the song's rhythmic precision suggests German techno-house.

As the piano improvisations grow more vigorous, so does the vocal track, which swells into jubilant chants, swooping choruses and rousing caterwauls. Before long, "Mendiani" becomes a funky Senegalese party jam, as it rides an unlikely Soul Train by way of the Trans Europe Express.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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John Murph
John Murph writes about music and culture and works as a web producer for He also contributes regularly to The Washington Post Express, JazzTimes, Down Beat, and JazzWise magazines.