Kamau Daaood/Jesse Sharps & the Return of the Medicine Men at the Temple Bar
Santa Monica's Temple Bar once again played Culture House hosting Fela congo player, Najite, as well as LA icons poet Kamau Daaood, and longtime Pan Afrikan People's Arkestra mainstay Jesse Sharps. A gifted wind player, Sharps broke out of his usual jazz mode and joined the Return of the Medicine Men, a solid roots reggae quartet fronted by the reclusive poet, painter, and saxophonist Bongo Rasstar.
DJ Anthony Valdez welcomed early arrivals with bone crunching bass gems from a varied collection that included Jill Scott, Meshell Ndegeocello, Roy Ayers, and Nina Simone. An onstage screen flashed a selection of Rasstar's colorful inspired paintings of black leaders, reggae legends, and jazz greats including Clifford Brown, Sun Ra, Cannonball and Nat Adderly, a magic portrait of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and Ms. Simone herself. Resplendent in a Malcolm X t-shirt, Sharps quietly took the stage to play a harmonic minor dominated interlude on accordion. The remaining members then took the stage for an hour of word/sound and power.
Thunder bass underscored Rasstar's thundering observations on sociology, politics, and spirituality. "Terrorist or freedom fighter, it's all just state sponsored crime, he intoned during "Blues for Palestine, joining Sharp's flute with his baritone sax for the horn arrangement. Sharp took a fluent solo, continuing the harmonic minor mode he'd begun on accordion. He resumed the accompanist role, rhythmically chording behind Rasstar's song of praise. Later, he unleashed a devastating soprano solo, utilizing circular breathing to express an unbroken chain of break neck ideas.
Daaood not only brought a young band of Terrance Martin, alto sax, Kharon Harrison, drums, Robert Turner, keyboards, and Steve Brunner, bass, but they held their first rehearsal onstage. The improvised set meant that the players had no idea what Kamau would read before the fact. Given Daaood's experience of being brought up on stage with no notice with the Pan Afrikan People's Arkestra continues to serve him well. Without the tip-off, the audience might never have suspected the impromptu nature of the performance. Daaood's impassioned sung/recited delivery quickly whipped the band into cooking mode, with an intense biting attack by Martin. Turner dealt a rollicking electric piano solo, followed by Brunner's dexterous electric bass workout, an Infectious Groove, indeed. Weaving through it all, Daaood's images veered from cosmic to concrete.
Introducing "The Lean Griot, Daaood ignited a gratifying ovation at the mention of Horace Tapscott. The classic "Leimert Park rose reinvented, darker, with pulsing keyboard. The heartfelt poignant "Blakey's Sticks took on a breezy swing, with another all out alto assault from Martin. With the ecstatic apotheosis of "Liberator of Spirit, the John Coltrane tribute, Martin's alto insisted that the band embrace "A Love Supreme, and they did. Daaood beamed after the five way conversations spoken in the language of saxophones.
After the heat of Najite's true born Afrobeat, and all the fire that preceded it, the unseasonably cold July night hit the faces of exiting Temple Bar revelers with a taste of December.