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Saturday, January 5, 2008

Ernest Dawkins - Mean Ameen (Delmark, 2004) *****

Despite saxophonist Ernest Dawkins' long experience as a jazz musician, he has not released that many albums under his own name. He is former president of Chicago's AACM and member of several bands including Kahil El'Zabar's Ethnic Heritage Ensemble. Yet most of his records are of interest, and this one, "Mean Ameen" is one I keep putting back in my CD-player very regularly. It's more free bop than free jazz, all pieces have a clear compositional structure and fixed themes. But all that's irrelevant. What is relevant is the music itself. And it's awesome. Blues-drenched, heart-rending, swinging highly rhythmic music with fantastic improvizations by the whole band, which consists of Maurice Brown on trumpet, Steve Berry on trombone, Darius Savage on bass and Isaiah Spencer on drums. The album is a tribute to former "New Horizons Ensemble" trumpeter Ameen Muhammad, also known as "King Ameen", who died in 2003. Now, the great thing about this album is it's hard to equal heart-energy-music continuum. The raw emotions and the unbridled energy resulting in this great rhytmic and musical feast, sad and joyful at the same time, have rarely been equalled. Every track on the album is great, but the absolute highlight is the last one, "Buster And The Search For The Human Genome", which is a 16-minute long rhythmic monster of a song, starting slowly and bluesy but gradually the tempo is speeding up to some break-neck velocity, with staccato unisono blowing by the horns, fiere soloing, with abrupt and sudden breaks, nothing more than a pause for breathing, when the whole monster gets back on top-speed, dragging the listener along to musical areas where everything is possible. This is not a record which will change the history of jazz, but it is the result of it : authentic, creative, rooted in tradition yet free as a bird. As the liner notes say : "King Ameen is smiling from up high".

The clip below is from their recent Delmark DVD (real great and fun, and the trailer does not really give credit to the music itself), which starts with "The Messenger", also to be found on this CD, a tribute to Art Blakey, on which trumpeter Maurice Brown really shines.


2 comments:

Alan said...

A six-star rating?! Wow! ;)

stef said...

mmm, not so good at math ...should be five of course, thanks for pointing it out...