Ed Wilkerson - tenor sax, clarinet, alto clarinet, didgeridoo
Mars Williams - alto, tenor, soprano and sopranino sax, clarinet, autoharp, wooden flute
James Sanders - violin
Avreeayl Ra - drums, percussion, wooden flute
Ernie Adams - percussion
Engine Records 2011
"Red is the Color in Jean-Michel Basquiat's Silk Blue" starts with a reeds duo, great interplay display as Mars Williams and Ed Wilkerson co-create circling lines interchanging melodical and harmonic aspects. When the frenetic rhythm sections joins in, James Sanders' turn comes and his contribution to this album is invaluable, sharp and clear flights, predatory even, saxophones come back into the picture for inspiring group improvisation that dissolves into laid back jazz walking, with light syncopated accents on the plates, slow blues bass walking and searching sax soloing, while the violin introduces more disturbing moods every once in a while.
"22nd Street Hustle" (dedicated to Fred Anderson) stays faithful to the rhythmic principles of jazz and The Great Black Music, steady, hypnotic groove, searching solos and solo exchanges, never rushed, never forced, flowing naturally.
"Flying Through Your Dreams" continues to explore the AACM african elements, meditative, shamanic piece, starts with didgeridoo. The music is atmospheric and mysterious, quite enchanting. It smoothly mooves into the short "A Sketch of Leroy Jenkins" with hypnotic percussion sounds (plates, gongs, toms) and searching violin solo.
I rarely write song-by-song reviews but I feel that it was the best fitting for this cd. With great balance between accessible and joyful (first half) and expressive, exuberant and searching, but never excessive (second half), with a handfull of great solo performances but focused on ensemble sound. I have a great respect for Harrison Bankhead who doesn't push himself forward (I think he only solos twice on the album) and keeps the group together around his grooves. The double percussion team works wonders providing a rhythm structures that are dense and energetic. James Sanders on violin contribution to this ensemble is huge - the violin sound is crip, the soloing sharp, the themes played on this classical instrument bring a new element to the african-jazz palette - rich with double bass, double percussion line and double horn-frontline. A splendid effort that I highly recommend to any fans of Chicagoan AACM scene, or those who are looking fo an introduction to this music.