Tales from the Archive: The Intimate Touch

From The Intimate Touch album notes:

“We can continue hearing pulses grouped in fours….Or, we can hear a shift from pulses grouped in fours to pulses grouped in threes: beginning on the second pulse of the third beat in measure 1 we hear four identical groups of three (bass-rim-rim, bass-rim-rim, bass-rim-rim, bass-rim-rim). The contrast between a heavy bass stroke and a feathery rim shot—on the pitch G4, the elusive G-spot, no doubt—reinforces the accent on every third pulse….

So which way did Frisner experience what he played? I can’t presume to know the answer, but I suspect he experienced both, and desired to use both as he plied his intimate touch in the privacy of his recording booth. After all, who knows what’s going to seduce a new listener?”

Back in the early nineties producer/drummer/journalist Jean Jean-Pierre brought Frisner Augustin into the recording studio of engineer Joe Quesada with instructions simply to play what he wanted. Using two conga drums, Frisner spun out ten tracks of brilliant solo improvisations on a rainbow of Afro-Haitian styles. Jean-Pierre would use snippets of the recordings for his radio program. Here’s a hot little taste of what the maestro put down:

After Frisner passed in 2012, Steve Deats, one of the Makandal drummers, gave me a copy of the raw tracks for the Frisner Augustin Memorial Archive. Not only do the tracks now live in the archive, they also mark the beginning of a recordings series that Makandal makes available to the public for purchase. You can find The Intimate Touch, From Frisner with Love for purchase and download on cdbaby. (Those who must have a tangible CD can Leave a Reply at the bottom of this page.)


Album Notes by Doctor Loïs are free-of-charge. The notes should satisfy intellectual needs—of the musically minded in particular. From time to time, however, they surrender to the temptation to explain the music as the sensuous experience it always is. For example, in describing the drum break (kase): “The master drummer, who plays the manman, may take the listener to yet a higher level of pleasure by penetrating the lick, raising its temperature, and climaxing in a kase (break), a lick that doesn’t obey the rules (entering when not expected, tickling the ear with renegade strokes, etc.). The master, once seeing that he has satisfied the dancers and perhaps seduced a Vodou spirit into the house, relaxes again on the steady beat.”

Two music notations complement verbal analysis, like the description of the metric shift that opens this post. If gray matter vibes turn you on, compare the score below with the audio excerpt. Do you hear/see the three-pulse groups that the bass shifts to (and then away from)?Ibo_Shifting_Bass

The Intimate Touch would make a pleasurable holiday gift, especially if your loved one enjoys music for the sake of music: pure solo drumming. It might also make your loved one dance, perhaps with you. And while you are giving, please consider a contribution to the Memorial Archive. Give a gift to future lovers of the drums of Haiti. Many thanks!

Credits (from the top)

Detail from photo by Chantal Regnault, showing one of Frisner’s intimate touches, taken in Battery Park, Manhattan, July 5, 1986

Excerpt from “Djab,” track 9 of  The Intimate Touch, From Frisner with Love, recorded by Joe Quesada, produced by Jean Jean-Pierre with Paul Uhry Newman, edited by Lois Wilcken

Cover of the CD version of  The Intimate Touch; photo by Chantal Regnault taken in Brooklyn, March 15, 1987; cover design by Kesler Pierre, 2014

Notation for analysis in the album notes for The Intimate Touch, notated by Lois Wilcken using the Sibelius program

Excerpt from “Triptik,” track 1 of  The Intimate Touch, From Frisner with Love, recorded by Joe Quesada, produced by Jean Jean-Pierre with Paul Uhry Newman, edited by Lois Wilcken

Story by Lois Wilcken

About makandal1758

Makandal channels multiple media to educate and enlighten the public about Haiti, the Haitian diaspora, and all those touched by the rich legacy of Haiti. The company's activities include research, archiving, theatrical productions, and the promotion of artists.
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1 Response to Tales from the Archive: The Intimate Touch

  1. Please, I would ove an actual CD copy–let me know how–message via facebook–Love ya–Karen


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