Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bennie Maupin - Early Reflections (Cryptogramophone, 2008)

Bennie Maupin - bass clarinet; tenor and soprano saxophones, alto flute

Michal Tokaj - piano
Michal Baranski - bass
Lukasz Zyta - drums, percussion
Hania Chowaniec-Rybka - voice (4, 13).

Early Reflections (Cryptogramophone, 2008)

Bennie Maupin's rediscovery gathers pace with this fine follow up to his memorable 2006 album "Penumbra". It is no longer enough to talk about the talented multi-instrumentalist who featured on Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew", "Big Fun" and "Jack Johnson", appeared with Herbie Hancock in "Headhunters" and then somehow lost his way; Bennie Maupin, aided also by the recent re-release of his classic ECM disc 'The Jewel In The Lotus", is back in his own right and is making exceptional, beautiful, inspirational music.

There should be no surprise that that the supporting musicians are all from Poland. (The band is: Bennie Maupin (bass clarinet; tenor and soprano saxophones, alto flute), Michal Tokaj (piano), Michal Baranski (bass) Lukasz Zyta (drums, percussion)). If you suspect that these guys can't cut it, listen to just one track: "Prophet's Motives", a soulful and funky workout featuring Bennie Maupin's bass clarinet over a decidedly cooking trio. 

But there is much more to enthuse over here. 

There are eight compositions by Bennie Maupin, one by Michal Tokaj (who plays wonderful Bill Evans inspired lines throughout) and the remaining four tracks are jointly improvised by the band.

It is the very well controlled balance between tightly composed ideas and freewheeling improvisation that points to the realization that the time spent with Miles Davis was not wasted. This allows in the same space the lyricism of Michal Tokaj's "Tears" to stand alongside the almost free form "Not Later Than Now" or "Inside The Shadows" or an extended modal reworking of "The Jewel In The Lotus" to juxtapose to the challenging final track "Spirits Of The Tatras" without contradiction.

And if you don't like jazz scat singing, do not worry; the singing of Hania Chowaniec-Rybka is used sparingly on just two tracks and does not distract too glaringly.

Another milestone for this highly rated musician.

"Escondido" from this album:

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