As a Jewish guy married to an African woman and with a new baby boy we like to refer to as "our little Jewfrican, the music of the Afro-Semitic Experience resonates in my household. When we first saw them perform a few years ago at Tonic, we said, "The Afro-Semitic Experience... hey, that's us.
As the group's name suggests, it's dedicated to exploring the deep connections between the African and Jewish musical traditions. If that sounds a bit pedanticlike a civics class in cross-cultural harmonyit's not. Plea for Peace
is an infectious, spiritually uplifting, even danceable fusion of West African and Afro-Cuban rhythms, gospel, klezmer, Jewish liturgical melodies, and the thread that binds it all togetherjazz.
The Connecticut-based sextet covers a seriously diverse range of tunes: cantorial compositions, Hannukah songs, hymns, a selection from Duke Ellington's "Second Sacred Concert, Billy Taylor's joyful spiritual "I Wish I Would Know How It Feels To Be Free, along with several memorable originals, including the plaintive title tune by pianist Warren Byrd. And its instrumental lineup is eclectic too, including co-leaders David Chevan on bass and Byrd on piano and Fender Rhodes, Stacy Phillips (lap steel and resonator guitars and violin), Will Bartlett (tenor sax and clarinet), Alivin Benjamin Carter Jr. (drums), and Baba David Coleman (hand drums).
All are first-rate musicians. Byrd's a freewheeling Monk-meets-Don Pullen pianist; Chevan, a brilliant improviser with a huge bass sound; and Phillips, the best jazz dobro player you've ever heard, standing out.
Call it experimental multicultural party music or just call it jazz, the Afro-Semitic Experience is an experience not to be missed.
Personnel: David Chevan: bass; Warren Byrd: piano, Fender Rhodes; Stacy Phillips: lap steel, resonator guitars, violin; Will Bartlett: tenor sax, clarinet; Alivin Benjamin Carter Jr.: drums; Baba David Coleman: hand drums.