How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
One of this year’s top mainstream jazz albums, March of the Jazz Guerillas folds in a large part of Babatunde Lea’s eclectic professional experiences. He and acoustic bassist Alex Blake are members of Pharoah Sanders’ band. Blake opens "Abuse of Reality Mambo" with a hot, multiple-stop statement of the melody and returns midway through for an extended bass feature. Each arrangement features a different set of soloists alongside inspired rhythms. Pianist Hilton Ruiz has opportunities to reveal several sides of his stellar technique, as do trumpeter Khalil Shaheed, trombonist Angela Wellman, and saxophonist Richard Howell.
Howell sings "The Creator Has a Master Plan" with passion while a trio of bata masters leads the band. Bill Summers works the centerpiece itolele, while David Frazier takes the larger iya and Munyungo Jackson handles the smaller okonkolo. Together, these three work the two sides of the drum with veteran hands and seasoned techniques. They return to provide a similar accompaniment for "Nature Boy." Howell offers those lyrics in traditional fashion, then opens up with a fascinating scat session halfway through. Drummer Babatunde Lea provides several fresh solo spots. Wellman’s "Back on Track" provides opportunities for both her and Lea to open things up. MP3 downloads for this album are located at Ubiquity’s web site . Mainstream jazz of this nature – folding in elements from many areas, while holding tight to the mainstream – are easily overlooked in this day of fads and fancies. Lea’s latest album is both exciting and refreshing.
Track Listing: March of the Jazz Guerillas; Descarga para Ginny; Back on Track; The Creator Has a Master Plan (A Tribute to Leon Thomas); Baldwin
Personnel: Babatunde Lea- drums, congas, cowbell, chekere, bells, claves, shakers, agogo bells, guiro, hindehu whistle, palito; Hilton Ruiz, Spencer Allen- piano; Alex Blake- bass; Richard Howell- tenor saxophone, talking drum, vocals; Khalil Shaheed- trumpet; Angela Wellman- trombone; David Frazier- congas; Bill Summers- congas, bata; David Frazier- bata; Munyungo Jackson- congas, bata, chekere, udu, shakers, triangle; Norman