Makanda Ken McIntyre: In the Wind (2004)
In the Wind adds a much-needed title to the sadly thin discography of tireless educator, wind master, innovator, composer, and African American music activist Makanda Ken McIntyre. The late McIntyre counted several remarkable classics among his recorded works, including Cecil Taylor's Unit Structures, performances with Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra, Beaver Harris, and an appearance on Sam Rivers/Alan Douglas' hugely influential Wildflowers collection, as well as his own sought-after Chasing the Sun and Open Horizon, but he devoted his life more to creation than promotion and suffers cult status as a result.
This eminently listenable collection of wind quartets featuring McIntyre overdubbed on all instruments displays the considerable breadth of his musical pallette, nimbly balancing calypso, bop, and nudges outside, with solid blues sense. While some pieces have a chamber music feel, others sound like a sax section broken loose from a larger band. Buoyant "Peas n Rice" becomes a New Orleans calypso with slippery soaring bass clarinet solos. A rich melancholy suffuses "Home," a piece for double reeds. "Charshee" boasts lilting chorus support for the sweet melody and slashing improvisations. The layers of the writing stagger to create thorny mandalas wheeling back to the easy swing.
The mannered opening of "Black Sugar Cane" heightens the surprise of the swoop and whirl tenor and alto solos that follow. The baritone barrels like a runaway train, with a quizzical figure popping up in the trio. The aptly named "Chitlins & Caviar" turns grease to gold with ear-burning hot sauce solos on double reeds, no less. The rolling clarinets of "Mambooga" create a colorful spinning toy, shooting sparks. A classy uptown theme, "Blanche" exploits the timbral ear candy of a flute quartet for romantic resonance. "Puunti" takes the saxophones on a tart calypso strut around the island. "Amy" ends the set with flute rocking blues that winks at Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
Makanda Ken McIntyre shares his ludicrous lack of renown with too many practitioners of this art form that uses the moment as its medium.
Track Listing: Peas 'n' Rice; Home; Charshee; Black Sugar Cane; Chitlins & Cavyah; Mambooga; Blanche; Puunti; Chasing the Sun; Eileen; Amy.
Personnel: Makanda Ken McIntyre: clarinets, saxophones, flutes.