Burnt Sugar / The Arkestra Chamber: Making Love to the Dark Ages (2009)
This band partly signifies the New York City downtown aura that resides as a major genre-slashing musical force, spanning several decades. Led by bandleader Greg Tate who lifts a few pages from conductor/composer Butch Morris' conduction modus operandi, where hand gestures, eye contact and motion serve as the guiding light.
With structured song forms and hefty doses of improvisation amid translucent harmonic evolvements, the band captures some of bandleader Sun Ra's off-kilter large digressions and spacey breakouts. And there's the jazz-fusion element, shaded with world-beat coatings and modulating background treatments.
The festivities commence with the three-part "Chains and Water A-B." Here, Lisala and Jeremiah provide the soul-drenched vocals atop soaring horns and climactic buildups as the underlying elements morph into avant-garde jazz and electronica passages. In this light, the music seamlessly converts into scorching improv statements featuring Vernon Reid's sizzling, sustain induced licks. Otherwise, many of these works are engineered upon multiple bassists, guitarists, and drummers, who engender the expansive and snappy pulses.
On the piece titled "Dominata," Greg Tate uses a laptop to execute a melodic motif that underscores the hornists and keys parts via a cyclical and atmospheric theme. Moreover, Tate streams synth-like EFX and spawns an ethereal and somewhat ominous tone within the grand scheme of matters. Then violinist Mazz Swift fuses an East Indian framework with streaming jazz phrasings atop an edgy ostinato, sparked by off-kilter backdrops and polytonal horns-based contrasts.
No doubt, it's a venture erected upon layered movements that are prominently enacted throughout the musicians' buoyant navigations. Ultimately, it's uncannily attainable and thoroughly entertaining when considering the near flawless blend of weighty compositional inferences in concert with the ever-present groove quotient. There's more than enough to sink your mind's eye into during this cunningly engineered outing.
Track Listing: Chains and Water A, B, C; Thorazine/81; Love to Tical; Dominata (the gabri ballad); Making Love to the Dark Ages.
Personnel: Greg Tate: guitar, laptop, conduction; Lisala Beatty: vocals; Jeremiah: vocals; Lewis 'Flip' Barnes: trumpet; Satch Hoyt: flute, percussion; Matana Roberts: alto sax; Petre Radu Scafaru: tenor sax; Mikel Banks: harmonica; Rene Akan: guitar; Vijay Iyer: piano; Bruce Mack: synthesizer; Jason DiMatteo: acoustic bass; Shahzad Ismaily: efx bass; Jared Michael Nickerson: electric bass; Chris Eddleton: drums; Will Martina: cello; Michael Veal: soprano sax, slap electric bass; Micah Gaugh: alto sax; Avram Fefer: alto sax, bass clarinet; 'Moist' Paula Henderson: baritone sax; David Smith: trombone; Mikel Banks: freak-a-phone; Ben Tyree: guitar; Trevor Holder: drums; Abby Dobson: vocals; Karma Johnson: vocals; Latasha Natasha Nevada Diggs: elec. vocals; Vernon Reid: guitar; Swiss Chris: drums; W-Myles Reilly: piano; Justice Dilla X: vocals, piano; Derrin Maxwell: vocals; Mazz Swift: violin; Andrew Lassalle: guitar; Meret Koehler: drums.