The ECM imprint issued Dave Liebman's Lookout Farm, one of the discs in the 70s that helped form my more literate jazz tastes. There was a clerk, Bill Furman, at the Hermosa Beach Platterpuss record shop just off the ocean who knew from music and, as I was grabbing a side by my fave jazz band, Oregon, he handed Lookout to me, smiled, and said "Try this!" He'd never failed me before and certainly didn't there either. Of course, I dug the hell out of it and, returning to the shop the next week, noted that Paul Motian was on the same label, so I picked up Conception Vessel. Had there been any danger I might've leaned into Billboard banalities and Casey Kasem creamsauce, those two LPs and of course the jawdropping Oregon scotched that hideous problem right then and there.
Later, Dave went through convolutions, sometimes in killer prime jazz, sometimes in New Agey waterdowns, but now the Zoho label has tucked him into one of their omnipresent ever-overachieving zenith units, The Miami Jazz Project, and things are looking very good indeed again for Big Dave. He and sax player / flautist Arthur Barron are the spine of the combo, and Barron cites Coltrane, Joe Henderson, Dexter Gordon, aaaaand Capt. Beefheart as his prime influences, so you know that, between the two gents, there isn't a moment of Yanni or John Tesh anywhere. Abel Pabon, a Zawinul-esque keyboardist, co-wrote Lordy Lourdes with Barron, and that's where, for me, the key to everything in this release lies.
Pabon engages an unearthly violinic sound from a synth patch, later becoming an arabesqued interlude, as Barron lofts a simul-synched flute duo, maybe a trio (Pabon's cagey with ivoryboard subtleties, so it's hard to tell, one of those flutes may well be his synthesizer), above him, the backing band grooving away. Comparisons to Paul Winter meeting Weather Report are inevitable, and, just as you're searching the liner notes to see if violinist Karen Briggs might've dropped in from Vertu, Pabon gives himself away as the mystery 'strings rasper' in the legato passages (synths, as cosmic as they can be, cannot perfectly ape string legato, so that's what ya listen for).
Jinnistan takes the mid-East sound a step closer to the Magellanic Cluster as the saxes (Liebman, Barron) have their way, throwing restraints to the winds. Barron's a student of Sufism and fascinated by the concept of djinns, supernatural beings who can influence we monkey humans for good or for evil, depending on whether the supernals had been imbibing ambrosia or rotgut that day. Most Westerners have been educated that djinns are strictly demonic, but that, I suppose, is more based on the genies' Western cousins—politicians and lobbyists—not the far more sophisticated mythologies within Eastern religions. Pabon, too, goes crazy for a bit, himself wirling like a dervish, so thank the dakinis and ganeshes that the rhythm unit has everything else nailed to the floor.
This is fusion, in case I hadn't made that clear, very strongly straight-ahead jazz based and thus not a Mahavishnu Orchestra or Group 87, yet well outside the more staid, if I can be allowed to contextually savage that term, classical jazz constraints. If you want something just a trifle more traditional, try this month's other Zoho issuance: Afro-Bop Alliance's Angel Eyes (here)…but don't expect Kenny G there either. That'd be a BIG mistake. Zoho never does anything by half measures, nor does a single member of its voluminous and growing roster of brilliant musicians.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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