Saturday, March 3, 2007

Kidd Jordan - Palm Of Soul (AUM Fidelity, 2006) ****½

This is without a doubt one of the best albums of 2006 (and the cover is also fantastic), with veteran Kidd Jordan on tenor sax, accompanied by William Parker (bass, guimbri, gongs, talking drum) and Hamid Drake (drums, tabla, frame drum, voice). And of course, this is not only the best rhythm section I know, but also Jordan exceeds himself on this CD. I knew him from a few blowing sessions with Fred Anderson, yet what he brings here is totally different. The CD was recorded one month after hurricane Katrina swiped away large parts of New Orleans, Jordan's hometown. The CD starts with less than a minute of free bop, but the album really opens with "Forever" and the 70-year old Jordan shows his powers. The warm tone of his sax goes deep into all the possible emotional registers of his instrument, and there are many, from deep blues, over powerful soaring cries to soft sobbing, and both Parker and Drake lay accents with percussion. This song almost literally brings me to tears, it is that emotionally powerful. In "Living Peace", Parker plays arco in the beginning and sadness reigns. Jordan manages to retain the attention for a long piece of close to 15 minutes, by being extremely expressive, and as the piece moves forward, it suddenly generates rhythm, and it even ends lightly bopping, and surprisinly a sudden theme emerges. In "Unity Call" Drake takes the initiative, with frame drum and African (?) singing, beautiful and very similar to what he brings on Fred Anderson's Timeless, and possibly even better. Parker plays his guimbri, an African guitar, and the atmosphere on the album becomes more open, more rhythmic, more melodious. Despite his tremendous technique, Parker continues to repeat the same three notes till the very end, changing the tempo once in a while. This feeling of world music sticks to the record, but it is still free jazz, and at its best. The real star of this CD is Kidd Jordan, inspired till the very end, expressive throughout, sensitive, howling, singing, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, ...

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