Sunday, October 16, 2011

Julius Hemphill - Dogon A.D. (Arista/Freedom 1972, 1977; International Phonograph, 2011)

The Dogon tribe of Mali made an amazing discovery: they somehow knew without the aid of a telescope that the Dog Star Sirius had a small companion star, invisible to the human eye, a fact that wasn't verified by astronomers until the 1970's. Much like that mystery is this extraordinary album by saxophonist and composer Julius Hemphill, accompanied by Baikida E.J. Carroll on trumpet, Abdul Wadud on cello and Philip Wilson on drums. This beautifally enigmatic album has drifted in and out of print since its release. Given new life by this beautiful gatefold CD re-issue by International Phonograph. There are four lengthy performances on this album, the last one, "The Hard Blues" wasn't part of the original album, but was recorded at the same session, and fits in very well with the aestetic of the other tracks with Wadud's alternatingly droning and propulsive cello and Wilson's drums providing the ideal launching pad for Hemphill's vividly tart saxophone and Carrol's punchy rejoinders and Hamiet Bluiett sitting in on baritone saxophone. Hemphill switches to flute on "The Painter" playing with a lithe beauty the brings the title to life. The first two tracks, the extraordinary "Dogon A.D." and "Rites" are classics of the loft jazz era, with the otherworldly bowing of Wadud making for a mystical and hypnotic setting that sets the musicians in motion for very creative flights of fancy. It is great to see this important album, one of the great jazz albums of the 1970's, back in print again. Anyone interested in adventurous and exciting jazz music will be thrilled. This is truly a model re-release, with great care taken to the music and the presentation and it is a first rate and classy job all around. Dogon A.D. -

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