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BoB: a Palindrome

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Robert Hurst: BoB: a Palindrome How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

The roll call of great bass players from Detroit includes Ron Carter
Ron Carter
Ron Carter
b.1937
bass
, Paul Chambers
Paul Chambers
Paul Chambers
1935 - 1969
bass, acoustic
and Doug Watkins
Doug Watkins
Doug Watkins
1934 - 1962
bass
. Robert Hurst, another Motor City musician, has for the past several years made a compelling case for his name on that list.

Hurst picked up the bass at age 14 and was soon performing with Detroit trumpeter Marcus Belgrave
Marcus Belgrave
Marcus Belgrave
b.1936
trumpet
, who had previously been a member of Ray Charles
Ray Charles
Ray Charles
1930 - 2004
piano
' band. Hurst subsequently met drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts
Jeff
Jeff "Tain" Watts
b.1960
drums
, who invited the bassist to join him in the rhythm section for the Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
b.1961
trumpet
band, where Hurst stayed for three years and seven recordings. Hurst later worked with Wynton's brother Branford Marsalis
Branford Marsalis
Branford Marsalis
b.1960
saxophone
, including playing in The Tonight Show band under Branford's direction. While working on this Show, Hurst found time to write arrangements and play bass for Willie Nelson, Boyz II Men and Barbra Streisand
Barbra Streisand
Barbra Streisand
b.1942
vocalist
. He's also served as bassist in Chris Botti
Chris Botti
Chris Botti
b.1962
trumpet
's and Diana Krall
Diana Krall
Diana Krall
b.1964
piano
's touring and recording bands.

Even with all this sidework, BoB: a palindrome is Hurst's sixth CD as a leader, and fourth release on his own Bebob label. It reunites Hurst with trumpeter Belgrave and drummer Watts ("I have been partners in time with Brotha Jeff 'Tain' Watts for nearly 30 years," BoB notes), and adds pianist Robert Glasper
Robert Glasper
Robert Glasper
b.1978
piano
, percussionist Adam Rudolph
Adam Rudolph
Adam Rudolph
b.1955
percussion
and reed master Bennie Maupin
Bennie Maupin
Bennie Maupin
b.1940
clarinet
(another Detroit native). Hurst's notes also explain that he prepared each composition like Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
would—"with the specific tones and particular talents of the musicians in mind."

What you think of BoB may depend upon which parts you hear. Belgrave's flugelhorn sings "Big Queen" (composed by Hurst for his wife Jill) light and soft, while Hurst leads the rhythm section in a dynamic yet singular, unified voice. "Little Queen" (for Hurst's daughter Jillian) sings just as beautifully through Maupin's soprano sax.

"Middle Passage Suite" is a three-part meditation inspired by Middle Passage (Atheneum Publishers, 1990), Charles Johnson's historic novel about the final voyage of a slave ship in 1830. Each part expands in scope and vision, from two to nearly 13 minutes. "Part II: For Those of Us That Didn't Make It" grows from a small brooding piano figure into an exotic, dark sound of percussion, bass and trumpet. Watts quickly detonates the quiet bass solo that opens "Part III: For Those of Us Still Here" into a landslide of tumbling rhythm; Maupin's soprano soars, caught in the updraft of Hurst's tumult. "Middle Passage Suite" writes an adventure as deep and far-out as any Alice Coltrane
Alice Coltrane
Alice Coltrane
1937 - 2007
piano
or Pharoah Sanders
Pharoah Sanders
Pharoah Sanders
b.1940
saxophone
travelogue.

BoB's two closing tunes wrestle the jazz-funk monster down: Hurst's bass thrashes and flails "Indiscreet in da Street" like a raging Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
1922 - 1979
bass, acoustic
; the rhythm section plays so strong that it nearly overwhelms this tune, which seems to smolder down to ash as it fades. "Jamming—a.k.a. Ichabod" kicks out an old-school New Orleans funk party, as Hurst's bass and Watts's snare drum stretch their shared pulses out into elastic time, informed by both James Brown
James Brown
James Brown
1933 - 2006
vocalist
and Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
—more accurately, informed by James Brown through Miles Davis. "Jamming" is a powerful ending to a great set.

BoB: a palindrome was actually recorded in 2001, and some tracks were originally written as far back as 1985. Even so, it sounds like it could have been recorded tomorrow.

Track Listing: 3 for Lawrence; Picked From Nick; Big Queen; Tigers On Venus; Middle Passage Suite: Part I – For Those of Us Who Made It; Middle Passage Suite: Part II – For Those of Us That Didn’t Make It Middle Passage Suite: Part III – For Those of Us Still Here; Little Queen; Indiscreet in da Street; Jamming - a.k.a. Ichabod.

Personnel: Robert Hurst: acoustic bass; Branford Marsalis: tenor and soprano saxophones; Marcus Belgrave: trumpet and flugelhorn; Bennie Maupin: alto flute, bass clarinet, tenor and soprano saxophones; Robert Glasper: acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes; Jeff "Tain" Watts: drums; Adam Rudolph: percussion.

Record Label: Bebob Records


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