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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Other Tet (Engine, 2009) ***½

In 2003, young Ghanese master drummer Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng released "Afrijazz", with Bill Lowe on bass trombone and Taylor Ho Bynum on trumpet, a promising, if somewhat unbalanced album. Now they are back with Joe Morris on bass. The drumming is still great but has a less prominent role in the music, and rather than being a demonstration of percussion and rhythms from the African diaspora, the music itself gets the full focus. And you could say it's a free bop album in the best of traditions: rhythmic, open, mostly without apparent themes, but yet with very close and coherent interaction between the musicians, who weave their solos over and around each other, constructing a great flowing and dancing sonic play.This opening track is the highlight of the album, and its great promise is unfortunately not fully met by the other pieces.

"Naptown/Trenton" is a real bopper with a theme (yes), a walking bass and constant rhythm, although Ho Bynum's trumpet solo is more left of center than you would expect from the genre, with Lowe's bass trombone sticking closer to the theme. "Dreamsketch" is slow and bluesy, with arco bass, and great dark combination of the bass and the bass trombone, and slowly develops into free improvisation, full of tension and emotional power. "Cold Day Clip", stays in the slower bop regions, a slowness which is necessary to make Lowe's playing come to its full right. "Look Below", is a again free bop, with a solid theme, and a long bass solo by Joe Morris.

A very enjoyable album, straight from the heart. 

© stef