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Trumpeter Hugh Ragin made this recording in late '98 in a (mostly) quartet format featuring pianist Craig Taborn, bassist Jaribu Shahid, and drummer Bruce Cox. The tunes, all Ragin originals, range from the sauntering bluesy strut of the title track to fast bebop to free jazz, concluding with a Sun Ra-inspired avant garde accompaniment to poetry read by Amiri Baraka. His liner notes establish the suite as a celebration of life in Harlem.
Ragin obviously plays the starring role here: his total mastery of the trumpet allows him to deliver crystal clear melodies, blistering solos, and twisted screaming avant interludes without hesitation. The rest of his band, though competent, certainly does not inspire any great awe. While Ragin's emphasis on composition provides plenty of formal structure, he seems to exercise his creative powers most stunnningly in the free jazz and avant garde settings. In this end of the musical spectrum, Ragin's musical voice is unique and unparalleled.
Track Listing: An Afternoon in Harlem, Not a Moment Too Soon, Braxton's Dues, The Moors of Spain, Wisdom and Overstanding, The Light at the End of the Underground Railroad, When Sun Ra Gets Blue.
Personnel: Hugh Ragin, trumpet; Jaribu Shahid, bass; Bruce Cox, drums; Andrew Cyrille, drums & percussion; Craig Taborn, piano; Amiri Baraka, voice; David Murray, bass clarinet.