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Friday, October 18, 2013

John Tchicai, Charlie Kohlhase, Garrison Fewell, Cecil McBee, Billy Hart - Tribal Ghost (NoBusiness, 2013) *****

By Stef  

The only reason why I did hesitate to give this album a five-star rating is because it is so short, and indeed, only thirty-five minutes long, but what you get is so good, so subtle, so beautiful and sensitive and jazzy and free that the listener cannot complain at all. Even with its short length, you get more than value for money.

Martin has already reviewed this album, so I will not repeat what he wrote. I justed wanted to emphasise the fact that the band is absolutely outstanding, with John Tchicai on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, Charlie Kohlhase on alto, tenor and baritone sax, Garrison Fewell on guitar, Cecil McBee on bass and Billy Hart on drums.

"Queen of Ra" and "Llanto Del Indio" already appear on the amazing "Good Night Songs", a collaboration of Fewell, Tchicai and Kohlase, but then without a rhythm section, which makes the tunes more intimate and introspective. "Llanto Del Indio" has been released on the New York Art Quartet's "35th Reunion" CD (2000), with Rosewell Rudd on trombone, and on "Cadencia Nova Danica".

"Queen Of Ra", also featured on "Big Chief Dreaming", an album from 2005 on which Fewell and Tchicai are the lead voices, in a quintet similar to this one, and yet, the version on "Tribal Ghost" is so much more subtle and compelling, in a way that's hard to describe, yet it somehow gels better.

The beginning of the second side starts with the introduction of "Venus", which also features on "One Long Minute" (2009), and then expands into "Dark Matter", an equally riveting slow theme, full of grace and sadness.

So if all these tunes have been played before, what makes them so unique now?

First of all, the overall consistency of sound and quality throughout the album is amazing.

Second, the entire band is excellent at any give moment. Tchicai and Kohlhase are fabulous in their controlled passion, McBee and Hart are an incredible rhythm section, adding pulse and dynamics that few of the previous recordings had, but the real star of the album is Fewell. Yes, we already knew he is an excellent guitarist, but what he does here is stunning, playing as jazzy as it gets, yet adding little touches and notes, a chord here, an accent there, absolutely controlled and expressive and precise and ... just right. And so slow and accurate ... many guitarists could take a lesson here.

Third, the whole album adds a kind of intimacy to the John Coltrane legacy of expansive and epic post-bop and free jazz. It is a kind of down to earth, more human, more humanistic approach to Coltrane's exploration of the universe. It is tribal as the title suggests, yet then of the introspective rather than the exuberant kind.

This album is as cool as it is hot!

Highly recommended.

You can  purchase it at


Fergus said...

Too many 5 stars lately.
Too much great music.
Not enough music.
Not enough stars.

Martin Schray said...

Fergus is just right.
The only reason why I did not give the album a five star rating might have been the fact that I rated a lot of albums like that recently (Hera, Fire, Matana Roberts). And all of them deserve it (in my humble opinion).
Thanks to Stef for adding really valid information. I agree with everything he says.

Stef said...

Yes, it's hard to make this assessment. There is no rule that says that five star albums have to be equally distributed throughout the year, nor that every year should have the same amount of five star albums. The music decides! :-)

Anonymous said...

i just obtained a copy of this album. The music is in the moment. Its cool, with moments of great subtlety and fire.