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This Is The Afro-Semitic Experience by Warren Byrd / David Chevan

Every now ‘n’ again one hears proof - or is it reinforcement? - of the fact of vital jazz activity in cities in these United States that aren’t NYC or LA or even Chicago. This disc is one such slice of proof - further, it’s proof/reminder of how jazz is a truly inclusive art form. This band, led by pianist Warren Byrd and bassist David Chevan, shows the common musical/cultural ground of Americans descended from the African and Jewish diasporas, but they don’t stop there. The lifeblood of Jazz History courses through the music within. Point one: The wry Mingus-esqque "Nefesh" has a jaunty hot jazz/Dixieland feel and tone and it’s shot through with free flourishes and Arabic North African melodic lines, and best of all, it sounds FUN, like the best Charles Mingus, Lester Bowie, Bud Freeman, Cannonball Adderley, you name it. Abdullah Ibrahim’s jewel "Water From An Ancient Well" is given a sumptuous, appropriately Ellingtonian rendition that end up being a superb homage to Ellington and Ibrahim (as opposed to generating a gosh-if-I-wanted-to-hear-Duke-I woulda-bought-an-Ellington-album-instead reaction). "Aalafiya/Shir LaShalom" is a virtual magical mystery tour through classic jazz balladry, working in the sounds of Jewish/Hebraic melody (that "cry" that’s also present in the best melodies by Mingus and Jackie McLean), judicious free playing and some swell violin in the Stuff Smith/Stephane Grappelli tradition. (OK, it’s more Stuff than Stephane, but what’re ya gonna do.) I’d guess this band’s main role model might likely be Mingus The Magnificent: the music is thoughtful/brainy/intelligent but never ponderous, it’s got that gospel-y whoop and exhilaration, it’s driven but not strident, great, inspired unison playing that’s never slick, melodies that are above all immediate and sing-able. The musicianship is impeccable: Byrd’s piano is lyrical and funky in that Bobby Timmons/Les McCann/Horace Silver vein, Chevan got some Mingus (and Charlie Haden) in him, that tenor soloist {?} is a possible reincarnation of George Adams, with that bluesy-gruff and gutsy skronk thing goin’ on (got some Clifford Jordan, too) and Stacy Phillips not only plays dandy violin but blues ‘n’ country tinged lap steel guitar. Btw, the album concludes with the 70s reggae classic "Rivers Of Babylon," here taken to the hills of Virginia, then to a Memphis after-hours jazz club (you know, the one by the church), and back again. But beautiful - I give this one all the rating-stars you got. [Reckless DC Music, P.O. Box 6183, Whitneyville, CT 06517]

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Warren Byrd / David Chevan
  • CD Title: This Is The Afro-Semitic Experience
  • Genre: Folk Jazz
  • Year Released: 2002
  • Record Label: Reckless DC Music
  • Musicians: W. Byrd: piano; D. Chevan: bass; Stacy Phillips: violin, lap steel & Resonator guitars; Will Bartlett, Richard A. McGee III, Mixashawn.com: reeds; Ben Proctor: trumpet; Alvin Carter Jr.: drums; Baba David Coleman: percussion.
  • Rating: Five Stars
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