More from Paul de Barros’ Seattle Times column:

Promoters don’t usually present two competing shows on the same night, but Earshot Jazz executive director John Gilbreath was so excited by Malian kora (harp) player Toumani Diabate’s Symmetric Orchestra and the zany Scandinavian jazz group Atomic, he decided what the hell. Earshot presents both bands Thursday: Diabate plays at 7 and 9:30 p.m. at the Triple Door ($25-$30; 206-838-4333 or; Atomic at 8 p.m. at Tula’s ($14; 206-443-4221 or

This makes for a tough decision. In 2006, Diabate released “Boulevard De L’Independence” (World Circuit/Nonesuch), one of the most amazing albums ever to come out of West Africa. Produced by Nick Gold, who brought us the Buena Vista Social Club, it mixes delicate, showering webs of kora with warbling and wailing vocals, horns and strings playing funk, jazz, Latin and other African traditions.

Though West African groups like the Super Rail band have made great albums in the past, “Boulevard” isn’t just “Afro-pop.” It’s a brilliant new world fusion, like nothing you’ve heard.

Atomic is one of the best groups to emerge out of the Nordic jazz explosion. At the 2005 Vancouver Festival, the band played a quick-witted set featuring haunting textures and sinewy improvised solos.

Not part of Scandinavia’s often overrated club-beat “NuJazz” movement, Atomic is a fluid, post-mainstream band whose asymmetric yet rolling rhythmic feel recalls Ornette Coleman. The band features trumpeter Magnus Broo and saxophonist Fredrik Ljungkvist, both from Stockholm, with an Oslo rhythm section of Haavark Wiik (piano), Ingebrigt Haker Flaten (bass) and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums).

Earshot Jazz, Tula's