Allen Won: The Jewel in the Lotus (2000)
A slight headache came on as I started to read the liner notes to The Jewel In The Lotus by Allen Won. In the notes, Won explains that the music is "based on the Tibetan chakra system in which there are set points of 'whirling' energy always in motion within the body. He goes on to point out that the scale used in the composition of the songs contains seven tones that each represent a specific chakra. Not being a musician and instantly needing to get out my dictionary when I saw the word chakra, I feared I might be in for a tedious hour or so of listening.
Luckily, the music itself is more grounded and less esoteric than I feared. Won plays tenor saxophone with an appealing rasp. He cuts right through the pounding rhythms on "Fire, allowing some enlivening squeaks and squawks into what is otherwise a very controlled performance. On the same tune, bassist Kiyoto Fujiwara contributes a brief but compelling solo.
Won, it should be noted, is a very different player on soprano saxophone. His airy work on "Heart seems to be kept aloft by the gentle currents the band lays under him. Elsewhere the soprano work on "Thoughts contributes to the pensive and slightly melancholy feel of the composition.
The Jewel in the Lotus is obviously a work with a pronounced intellectual bent. However, to their credit, Won and his fellow musicians have created an album with a considerable amount of emotion as well. You do not need prior knowledge of the Tibetan chakra system to come away with an enjoyment of this disc.
Track Listing: Intro-Earth; Water; Fire; Heart; Village; Thoughts; Spirit; Love And Compassion.
Personnel: Allen Won: soprano and tenor saxophone, rainstick, bird whistles, Tibetan singing bowl; Kiyoto Fujiwara: bass, bird whistles; Mike Sarin: drums, percussion, bird whistles; Rave Tesar: piano, bird whistles.
Record Label: Self Produced
Style: Modern Jazz