Saxist Sly5thAve (Sylvester Onyejiaka), as soon as he was done touring with Prince, put together this slick 'n wicked jazz ensemble to infuse ancestral roots in Igbo tribal and artistic culture with North American and other modes, and he sure as hell knows not only how to lay out and mellow down but likewise to blow like the North Wind, putting forth gales of complex improv when the mood strikes, though the lion's share of Akuma is cool and easy. The result of the hip musicians he gathered and the direction of his charts is sophisticated, convincing, almost completely instrumental, indicative of a young player who's overtaking the horizon of the race while most of the rest of us are still figuring out where the starting line is.
A percentage of this reminded me of Billy Cobham's work after he left Mahavishnu Orchestra, not nearly so much for the drum work by Ross Pederson, though that's nice indeed, but for general atmospherics. Crosswinds came to immediately to mind, an LP much underlauded but which tends to stick in the memory long after hearing it. The rest of the CD, though, is pretty uniquely Sly's thoughts and exposition, much of it chill jazz. That, though, gets well sparked up when someone gets hopping, as Zach Brock does in Bach, with his Michael Urbaniak-ish violin, Jay Jennings soon following behind on trumpet.
Security gots da funk, a jumpin' horn chorale keeping things hip, kicking the blues away, serenading the listeners' joy quotient before laying back into Cory Henry's keyboard solo Zawinuling up to David Benoit for a more pensive side pool, after which Phil Lassiter Fergusons his way through to Sly capturing the riff, leading it through side streets where it meets up with Lassiter again and the two wail away, soon joined by Jennings in a trio, one of the disc's many high points. In fact, I say start with this cut, my favorite and a definite contender in the catalogue of new twists on the old beloved, before any of the others, as it'll make you that much more appreciate the generous quietude pervading elsewhere. Sly5thAve is going places, and it all starts right here in his debut solo slab. Tasty and then some.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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