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Thursday, January 2, 2020

Dopolarians - Garden Party (Mahakala Music, 2019) ***½

Garden Party is an engaging and fun work that teams up some heavyweights like saxophonist Kidd Jordan, bassist William Parker, and drummer Alvin Fielder with younger musicians saxophonist Chad Fowler and pianist Chris Parker, as well as vocalist Kelley Hurt. It is Fielder's final recording, as he fell sick and passed away after it's recording, and it is an engaging recording with some absolutely stellar moments of beauty and inspired playing.

The opening track is simply titled 'C Melody'. It begins with the gentle touch of Parker's piano mixed with the gentle flow of Jordan's tenor saxophone. The song unfurls unhurriedly, supported by the late Fielder's astute percussion work. As the piece progresses, Parker's bass becomes more prominent, adding to the urgency of alto saxophonist Chad Fowler playing The various lines intertwine, reacting to each other, reaching a peak at the end of the track. The next track, 'Dopolaria", a mash-up of Italian words, begins with a benign melody on the piano. Mixing with Hurt's wordless vocals, it forms a bridge to the more fiery 'Father Dies, Son Dies,' where there is rather engaging mix of the wordless vocals, composed melodies, and pointed solos from the saxes. The title track wraps itself around a poem by Hurt. It begins with a description of domestic life, a mix of nature and human nature. It is a gentle tune, which proceeds very simply, perfectly in tune with the free form poetry and familial themes. Fowler's slightly acidic solo towards the middle of the piece is a highlight.

'Guilty Happy' begins with an Ornette Coleman-like vibe. Maybe it's the somewhat off-kilter but still very accessible melody, or the uptempo approach - it is not completely graspable - and it does indeed feel happy. Interestingly, as the track achieves maximum happiness, it also seems to be most guilty of it and slowly decomposes into a melancholic and searching section, before re-constituting the head. The album closes with "Impromptu", which features a somewhat irritating melody, but I believe purposely so as it quickly and delightfully unravels with sax solos that stretch times and wander far beyond the original form.

Garden Party is an enjoyable album with a lot to offer. While it may not be that much of a challenge for the more intrepid listener, it is certain to engage and entertain.