Preachin to the Choir is saxist Dawan Muhammad's powerful but simultaneously energetically mellifluous return to the old school of B-3 underwritten grooves made all the more wistful and poignant by the presence of guitarist Calvin Keys, a cat who hasn't been heard from as much as should be in the 00s. Here he reminds listeners of what one leading faction of the post-Miles fusion of the 70s meant…'cause he was there. The center of the rotating quartets, though, is indeed the interaction 'twixt keys and sax, and Bobby Pierce (the first five cuts) and Ton Tonyan (the last six cuts) conjure up great interlocking lines with the reeds player, enlarging on the vocabulary of the mode.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Preachin is the fact that it's composed of 1991 and 2006 gigs recorded live in studio. That accounts for the vitality and élan of the whole CD, an exercise in lively refinement from musicians completely steeped in the ambience of a sound still not fully given its due. Nothing here will blows the doors off, it's not meant to, but once you step into the pocket with the band, you grasp the immense rapport producing such a seamless sound. Had the CD emerged as a recovered set of sides from the old Blue Note label under Rudy van Gelder, I wouldn't have been one damn bit surprised. It's that solid.
My favorite cut? Hey, I dig John Coltrane too, who enjoys four cuts here, and the 2006 ensemble's version of Pursuance is a moodily atmospheric breathtaker, Muhammad all over the map from serial requotations to breathy pensivity to short abstract outbursts to truncated melodics and everywhere in between, each note played with Desmond-esque forethought. Tom Tonyan proves as adept on the kays as Bobby Pierce had in the first half of the disc, Harold Acey tastily accentuating everything, very much like Billy Higgins (yep, that Billy Higgins) did in the '91 dates. Not a cut goes wanting in Preachin to the Choir, and I dare ya to try to cut the CD short once you start it. Forget the dentist appointment, ditch the date, just hang out the Do Not Disturb sign and settle in for a hearty revivification of what you almost forgot. You won't regret it.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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