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
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
; the rhythm section plays so strong that it nearly overwhelms this tune, which seems to smolder down to ash as it fades. "Jamminga.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
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.