Like many a jazz listener, I roll my eyes and flip radio stations when the announcer calls out the next tune as ‘world music.’ I do this because what every jazz fan knows is all music is world music, and jazz is the ultimate synthesis of the world’s music. Many of today’s ‘world music’ artists are as original/creative as those $20 Rolex watches sold downtown. The 1970s disease of mediocrity called “fusion” plagues them. This infection allowed for the rise electric music and the decline of musicianship.
Thankfully along came musicians like Sun Ra, The Art Ensemble Of Chicago, Kahil El’Zabar, percussionist Adam Rudolph, and Yusef Lateef. All these artists kept the music real, while advancing the creativity of their own voice. Rudolph, a percussionist and musicologist, has studied extensively Balinese, Cuban, Ghanain, Haitian, Hindustani, and Moroccan traditions. His previous release, Sprits (Meta) with Pharoah Sanders reviewed in the July issue, is a masterpiece of meditative jazz.
He is back again with another master, Dr. Yusef Lateef. Born in Detroit, Lateef played with the likes of Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie, Cannonball Adderley before journeying in time and place to study and teach African and Indian music. He in effect continued the spirit of John Coltrane’s journey beyond the North American continent.
Rudolph and Lateef have collaborated on several recordings and numerous performances. This project brings together percussive rhythms of many continents with the meditative elements of sound: blown, strummed, plucked, and created by electronics. Three of the ten tracks were written for a Lincoln Center celebration of sixty-years of Yusef Lateef’s music. But this isn’t just about meditation. Their music is a call to action. African music is mixed with Alex Marcelo’s ever-present piano to keep our reference in the modern. Electronic samples mingle with bird squeaks and voice in as a natural a way as any flow experience. Lateef, a masterful flautist, weaves suggestions of flight, then of a kind of city life. This recording like those by the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, is an amalgamation of music history. Take Lateef’s “Hunger And Tears.” Joseph Bowie’s trombone playing come straight out of his modern music experiences with Sam Rivers next is Lateef’s tenor and Ralph Jones’ Soprano trading calls. All of this is place over the acceleration of Rudolph’s expansive hand drumming and electronic accents. There is alot to like from a creative free perspective, ditto that for a connoisseur of African percussion or mediation music. This music works on so many levels. Many, I believe, beyond conscious levels. How can that be? Dig, like a bootleg of Coltrane’s “Alabama,” you know there are things happening beyond the physical, beyond the sound in the spiritual world.