Dawkins and company traverse a diverse landscape of musical moods, from jubilant buoyancy ("Hymn for a Hip King"), to intense spontaneity ("Sketches"), to lyrical ensemble statements ("Balladesque," "Shades of the Prairie Prophet"). Standout soloing is in abundance throughout with strong statements from trumpeters Shaun Johnson and Marquis Hill—whose flugelhorn work on "Hymn for a Hip King" is exceptional--, trombonist Steve Berry and guitarist Jeff Parker. Parker's fluid, at times blues drenched lines resonate strongly on "Mal-Lester," Dawkins' tribute to legendary Chicago avant-garde musicians Malachi Favors and Lester Bowie.
It is Dawkins, however, whose free-wheeling drive propels the music into decidedly unconventional territory. His fervent alto saxophone whirls on "Sketches," for example, or soul-bearing phrasing on "Mesopotamia" grabs hold of a listener and doesn't let go until his message has been clearly expressed. Whether the underlying message is one of frustration, optimism, or both, it is powerful and deliberate.
The disc concludes with the lengthy anti-war rant "Baghdad Boogie," a vocal infused, swinging piece that satirically makes the case for an end to the insanity of a seemingly never-ending campaign of violence; a poignant end to an uncompromising set of original music.