Sunday, November 18, 2012

Ernest Dawkins - Afro Straight (Delmark, 2012)

Saxophonist Ernest Dawkins takes a break from the New Horizon Ensemble and the Afro-Heritage Ensemble, two larger bands he leads, to explore a different heritage, that of a few saxophone masters. Dawkins leads, playing tenor and alto saxophone along with Corey Wilkes on trumpet, Willerm Desilfort on piano, Junius Paul on bass and Isaiah Spencer on drums along with some additional percussion. The majority of the album consists of compositions written by or associated with John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter. From the Coltrane songbook we hear "Mr. P.C.", "Central Park West" and "Softly As In A Morning Sunrise". The group executes these songs very well, expanding what were originally quartet performances to include trumpet and extra percussion. The two Coltrane originals are tough and agile, while the standard is stretched out a greater length, hinting at the melody before fully embracing it. Wayne Shorter's "United" and "Juju" harken back to his Blue Note period with strong blustery saxophone and ripe accompaniment. Also included are a couple of Dawkins originals particularly the title track which is a short blast of joyful music. The bebop anthem "Woody 'n' You" and an interesting organ washed "God Bless the Child" round out the performances. This was an enjoyable and well played album. The musicians revisit some familiar songs and play them with class and tact making for accessible and satisfying music. Afro Straight -

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