While it has become extremely fashionable for western musicians to collaborate with Malian masters, few of these collaborations have produced any genuinely surprising music. Most often such sessions see visiting western musicians, be they Damon Albarn or Ry Cooder, take a back seat to the virtuosity and rhythmic invention of their Malian cohorts; and while albums like Albarn’s Mali Music and Cooder’s Talking Timbuktu have much to recommend them, they often appear self indulgent in comparison to the unadulterated efforts of old Malian masters themselves. Rowell Rudd’s and Toumani Diabate’s unfortunately titled MALIcool is a refreshing exception to this rule. Rudd, a noted free jazz trombonist, has always had a penchant for transgressive experiments and MALIcool is a brilliantly conceived project that more than delivers on the extravagant promise of its underlying concept. Diabate’s always subtle finger-picking provides the bedrock rhythms for Rudd’s unhinged flights of fancy. The resulting work is a delightfully unclassifiable piece of inspired musical and cultural fusion. Fans of Rudd and Diabate will be equally delighted by the unexpected brilliance of this work.