Cheikh Ndoye’s debut CD is distinctive if just for the number of "name" artists who agreed to work with the young and amazingly technically proficient bassist. With Randy Brecker, Russell Ferrante and Eric Marienthal, among others, on hand to share their talents you know Ndoye must have a garnered a great deal of respect among his fellow jazz musicians. Originally from Senegal, West Africa, Ndoye has been in the United States for about ten years. Self-taught as a youngster, he has become known as a Richard Bona protégé for the work Ndoye has done in studying with the master bassist.
If this CD was cut in the 1970s, it would have perfectly fit into the jazz of the day. This mix of Bob James’ covers, African-rooted originals and fusion/contemporary songs today with the over-marketing of jazz genres fits somewhere between smooth jazz and traditional straight-ahead styles. The smooth jazz elements include sweet rhythm grooves, beautiful melodies and the use of electric keyboards. On the traditional side, there are long extended solos where the artists are given plenty of space to develop their ideas to full fruition.
With regard to Ndoye’s technique, immediately on the opening short composition "Siguil," he rips off a scalular passage so clean and quick you’d almost swear it was a synthesizer. On other tracks, such as "A Child’s Tale" and "Rewmi," Ndoye’s playing is precise and rhythmically articulate to the point of perfection. Throughout the disc it’s easy why so many top name players wanted to work with him. He’s both a technical master and a deeply artistic soul.
Among the other stellar performers on this disc include Kyle Whelan. His saxophone playing is deeply oriented to the groove and he never lets his thoughtful soloistic intelligence get out of hand. Eric Marienthal takes a brilliant turn on the Bob James penned "Night Beat." It’s about time other jazz artists started covering the Bob James catalog of songs and Marienthal shows taste both in fitting his playing to the rhythm section’s understated groove as well as showcasing that uniquely wonderful distinctive tone of his.
Russell Ferrante’s keyboard playing on the five tracks he appears on help to demonstrate why he’s so in demand. His ability to voice chords and provide the right kind of harmonic support at just the right moments makes him uniquely situated for this project. Perhaps nowhere are his talents most appreciated than on "Alchemy West." His light fills and delightful sense of when to lay back and when to come forward provide the space the other artists need to make this track the CD’s best tune.
Make no mistake about it, Ndoye is the straw that stirs the mix of musical elements to their utmost blend. By picking the right musicians for the right charts, supplying a wonderfully precise and cleanly driven bass line to push the elements forward, as well as fashion wonderful motor rhythms for the artists to use as a sound cushion for their own ideas, Ndoye is an artist who be warmly reckoned with for a long time.