Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Burnt Sugar (The Arkestra Chamber) - Making Love to the Dark Ages (Livewired Music, 2009)

Guitarist, composer and conductor Greg Tate leads a rotating large ensemble called Burnt Sugar which intelligently mixes the large scale mysticism of Sun Ra, and the earthy fusion of Miles Davis with elements of hip-hop. It makes for an interesting gumbo of styles that works well for the most part. A three part suite that evokes the terrible legacy of slavery in America celled "Chains and Water" opens the album, featuring the evocative vocals of a singer that sound a lot like June Tyson from the old Sun Ra band on the first section. The second and third sections of this suite mix some very nice jazzy improvisation with a touch of psychedelia. The album does have a dry spot with "Dominita - The Gabri Ballad" which has some classy trumpet playing but overstays its welcome by lingering for over fifteen minutes. It was often said that Duke Ellington's instrument was his orchestra, and the same could be said for Tate who uses conducting techniques similar to those used by Butch Morris and John Zorn to set up interesting scenarios for his musicians. By using cues and themes, Tate is able to guide the improvisation into territory that makes for interesting music, keeping the proceedings consistently engaging for the listeners and the performers.
Making Love to the Dark Ages - amazon.com

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