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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

His Name Is Alive - Sweet Earth Flower : A Tribute To Marion Brown (High Two, 2007) ****

There aren't many rock musicians with a jazz sensitivity, exception made for the 70s mostly British prog-rock scene, and some recent endeavors by the French label Chief Inspector. But it's even more unusual that the entire album is a tribute to one jazz musician, and a living one at that. And that's exactly what His Name Is Alive does here, making a tribute to saxophonist Marion Brown, and they do it brilliantly, without relinquishing their rock background, but without making it rock either. Their take on Brown's music is gentle, respectful, often contemplative, with a sometimes simplified take on the music, but that's fine here : the constant rhythm and the clear structure offer a great background for the trumpet and the saxes to solo on. The objective is not to demonstrate instrumental skills or to be too overly expressive : the music of Marion Brown stands at the very center as it should be, but then in the atmospheric mode that the band is known for.

His Name Is Alive is actually a band with ongoing personnel changes around founder guitarist/pianist Warn Defever, assisted by
Jamie Saltsman on double bass who performed with the band before. Five of the other musicians come from the neo-Afrobeat band NOMO : Elliot Bergman on tenor saxophone and Rhodes, Erik Hall on electric piano, Justin Walter on trumpet, Dan Piccolo on drums and percussion, and Olman Piedra on congas and cajon. Michael Herbst from Antibalas joins too on alto saxophone and Jamie Easter on percussion.

Marion Brown has given the project his blessing. Warn Defever said "I thought we should do it while he is alive. We've talked quite a bit about the project and he's supported us all the way. His encouragement and insight has been incredible".

And Marion Brown commented himself : "It's beautiful. Thank you. You really understand me".

And who are we to say anything else?

(Thank you Pedro for pointing out this album to me!)

Listen to "Sweet Earth Flying"

Listen and download from eMusic.

© stef