The W. E. S. Group: The W. E. S. Group (2002)
Washington, D. C. saxophonist, W. E. S., a.k.a W. E. Smith, through his family is steeped in the jazz tradition. His grandfather and great-uncle owned a music publishing company and published music played by King Oliver and Noble Sissle. His cousin, percussionist Warren Smith, Jr., worked with Miles Davis and Gil Evans. In addition to leading his quartet, W. E. S. teaches at the University of Maryland, books for BET's D.C. Supper Club and has his own production company, among other endeavors and accomplishments. This, his second release, features his compositions dedicated to the development of the Pan-African ethos in Afro-American music, with one exception. His "Lumbee" is inspired by his part Native American heritage. Some of the pieces, such as "Pan-African" are virtually stream of consciousness with few breaks and rests. "Journey Within", on the other hand, more accurately and exhaustively expresses ideas W. E. S. is trying to convey with its intense and sometimes complex harmonies. Janelle Gill's piano is allowed to roam freely on this track while Clifton Brockington's probing trumpet plays against a backdrop of a dissonant W. E. S. tenor. But these engaging moments come few and far between during this session.
The motivations behind this album are certainly notable and meritorious, the capturing of the essence of Afro-American music. After the upbeat kickoff tune "Lumbee", I found myself tuning out after about three tracks, feeling that I have heard this material, or something very close to it, many times before. Perhaps others will find fulfillment in this music where I did not. You can find W. E. S. at www.het-herumusic.com.
Track Listing: Lumbee; Timelessness; How Many Times; Atonement; Pan-African; Journey Within; The Spirit of You; All the Fire
Personnel: W. E. Smith - Tenor & Soprano Sax; Clifton Brockington - Trumpet/Flugelhorn; Mark Prince - Drums; Kris Funn - Bass; Janelle Gill - Piano; Ekendra Das - Percussion
Record Label: Het-Heru/Orpheus