How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
It's American roots music in flying colors as four simpatico musicians dig deeply at a 1991 Austrian jazz festival. Native American (Craw) Jim Pepper, African-Americans Amina Claudine Myers and Anthony Cox and Puerto Rican Leopoldo Fleming wowed the audience with "native musicthe blues, jazz, Indian and African music that seems all about the passion and power to unite.
The concert opens withwhat else?the blues. It's basically Billie Holiday's "Fine and Mellow, and is a down-home groove. Myers makes her piano pulsate the essence of the music and she's no slouch when it comes to singing. Pepper complements with a wailing tenorhis influence can certainly be heard in such players as Jan Garbarek, Michael Brecker and David Sanbornand Cox and Fleming really come along for the ride. Myers and Cox remind us what vital presences they were on the world jazz scene and Fleming, known for his work with Nina Simone among others, shows true versatility and appealing accessibility.
Pepper continues with two of his favorite, chant-like tunes"Comin' and Goin' and the famous "Witchi-Tai-To and they enchant and hypnotize in the fashion of, say, "The Creator Has a Master Plan. In each the vamp sends the soloists soaring and one can only imagine the spellbound audience at this festival. This is music that sends us both to the past and off into a rosy future. Pepper died the year after this concert was recorded but his playing and tunes most certainly have a timeless quality.
The album closes with the accent on Africa as Myers intones her take on how the musics of her own roots meet. It's another universal wail as the band takes us out with a cosmic smile. Myers grooves in a beautiful wordless vocal and punctuates her singing with attendant pianistics. Pepper chants on his horn and drums and bass find the pulse to make us dance.
Track Listing: The Blues; Comin' and Goin'; Witchi-Tai-To; African Blues.
Personnel: Jim Pepper: tenor saxophone, vocals; Amina Claudine Myers: piano, vocals; Anthony Cox: bass: Leopoldo Fleming: percussion.