Even before a single note of Africa hits the air, the long list of instruments played by leader/composer Rick Waldron suggests that something unusual is afoot. For his fourth CD Waldron, who has chaired the music department at Everett Community College since 1990, has created a lively and intricate session that defies easy description.
There's reason to expect some traditional jazz, given that Waldron earned a Master's degree in composition from North Texas State, one of the best jazz schools in the world; also, one of the two covers here is "Autumn Leaves," which becomes a playful, inverted bebop romp with a swinging bass solo and a surprise ending. Another jazz signpost is the participation of his daughter Anne Drummond, the wonderful flutist whose busy career includes recording with legendary pianist Kenny Barron.
But, as someone recently reminded me, categorizing music is more important for critics than musicians. And so Waldron, when asked, took a moment to come up with a possible description ("contemporary jazz, I guess -?"). He was more inclined to talk about influences than labels, which would include movie scores, the harmonies of Steely Dan, Chick Corea and Joe Zawinul, and Bobby McFerrin's vocal group work (see, for instance, his 2010 EmArcy release, "VOCAbuLarieS"). Africa also includes a lyrical, Keith Jarrett-ish piano solo ("Con Moto") as well as an inventive take on the vintage David Crosby rocker hit, "Triad."
Africa offers a bounty of infectious and pensive music, all of it thoughtful and masterfully executed. It's the perfect antidote to a bitter winter that won't go away, as well as a fine soundtrack for dancing on a warm beach. In fact, there's no season that can't be enhanced by this kind of musical joy however you choose to categorize it.
On the Dunes; Africa; Corner of the Universe; Bway Up; Goodbye; Triad;
Con Moto; In the Night; Autumn Leaves; Runnin’.
Rick Waldron: acoustic and electric guitars, basses, keyboards,
synths, glockenspiel, melodica, trombone, hand percussion, mandolin,
banjo; Anne Drummond: soprano and alto flutes; Alexey Nikolaev: tenor
and soprano saxophones; Ken French: drums; David Solomon: congas,
percussion; Chaz Hastings: tablas; Rick Waldron, Jill Waldron, Jen
Dunton, Bev Dunton, Nel Krueger, John Kenning, Erin McGaughan, Larry