On Native Lands, the electronics of drum programming and guitar loops mix convincingly with indigenous acoustic instruments from around the world. Will Calhoun is able to combine such seemingly disparate sounds, styles and even people into one landscape and still maintain the integrity of the album as a whole. It may be due to the unifying thread throughout, Calhoun's honest rhythmic experiments, as well as the varied cast joining the effort: Pharoah Sanders, Mos Def, Kevin Eubanks, Stanley Jordan, Orrin Evans, Wallace and Antoine Roney, and Naná Vasconcelos, among others.
The combination of electronic and acoustic works well on tracks like the cover of Wayne Shorter's "Nefertiti, where Calhoun employs drum loops and "sonic textured ambiance while Sanders' tenor and Wallace Roney's muted trumpet unmistakably recall the original. Some Calhoun originals, such as "Dorita and "Naked, seem to be borderline smooth jazz, but the improvisation, especially Sanders' on the latter, is undeniably honest and soulful. On "Pyramids, the tenor legend seems right at home amid the electronic swirling of Eubanks' distorted guitar loops.
A standout arrangement is Calhoun's original "Umoja. It's a gentle, positive uplifting piece, with Sanders' tenor and Roney's muted trumpet voicing the theme, Calhoun on the liquid-sounding Nigerian udu drum, Buster Williams delivering an expressive acoustic bass solo, and Orrin Evan's reserved piano guiding the whole group. "Native Lands is a lively percussion showcase for Calhoun and Vasconcelos, featuring a Native American double-bell flute.
Native Lands is a two-disc set with a DVD that features Calhoun commenting about the influences on the album's music, the production of each track, and still and video footage taken on his travels synched to pieces like "Umoja.
Track Listing: Afro Blue; Pyramids; Naked; Nefertiti; Ancient One First Born; Tateich; Umoja; Emanation; She;
Three Card Molly; Push; Dorita; East; Native Lands; Echoes of Elvin.
Personnel: Will Calhoun: various indigenous percussion, drum programming, guitar, keyboards, piano; Pharoah Sanders: tenor sax; Mos Def: piano; Stanley Jordan: guitar; Kevin Eubanks: guitar; Nana Vasconcelos: percussion and voice; Buster Williams: bass; Wallace Roney: trumpet; Antoine Roney: soprano sax; Orrin Evans: acoustic and electric piano; John Benitez: bass; Gregg Marrett: harmonica; Marcus Miller: bass; Cheikh Tdiane Seck: strings.