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Melvin Gibbs Elevated Entity: Ancients Speak

Glenn Astarita By

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Bassist Melvin Gibbs is a multi-talented and pivotal figure on New York City's downtown scene. On Ancients Speak, co-produced by renegade guitarist and experimental composer Arto Lindsay, Gibbs mixes a potpourri of African vocals, hip hop, Latin grooves, rap, and tribal chants, along with divergent stylizations that transform into a distinct entity.

Ancients Speak helps launch a new label, LiveWired Music, with a curious polytonal gumbo—yet Gibbs remains a merchant of good cheer throughout, providing a fluid undercurrent with his prominent bass licks. Featuring ex-Miles Davis group guitarist Pete Cosey, the program exudes a vibrant world-music vibe, steeped in melodic keys and guitar parts, occasionally adorned with spacey effects treatments.

Gibbs' fluid and lyrically resplendent solo playing, exemplified on "Sometimes," displays his melodic gifts and enviable technique. But Ancients Speak also transmits a group-centric vibe with alternating lineups and worldly fusions of sound in a genre-busting gala—without being over-baked or pompous. Enamored by Cosey's blitzing and distortion riffs atop the percussionist's thrusting pulses, the program is also spiced with ethereal overtones and pumping backbeats.

"Mojiba" conveys a nouveau African rock-pop aura, partly due to the punchy horns and Amayo's vocals, while John Medeski generates a mystical element with his layered electric keys. At the same time, Gibbs spawns a lofty degree of coolness within a grand schema underscored by an all-encompassing world-beat sound.

The album presents a study in colorific and rhythmic contrasts. On "Os Aguas/The Waters," keyboardist Craig Taborn lays out a dark synth swash to smooth out the buoyant percussion metrics, while Cosey's liquefying sitar-guitar phrasings cast an Eastern modality that encircles the dream-state themes.

Gibbs integrates the best of many musical worlds here. Where others fail in these situations, he turns an array of propositions into a cheery and expertly produced stream of ideas that touch numerous musical fronts. Understanding Gibbs' muse is akin to deciphering an ancient mythology. However, he eliminates the cerebral connotations by keeping up a festive tone along the way.


Track Listing: Ancients Speak; Sometimes; Canto Por Odudua; Represent Do Rio; Mojuba; Sun Of Shango; Eu Cant En Yoruba; Macumba; Summer Breeze; Os Aguas/The Waters.

Personnel: Melvin Gibbs: bass, keyboards, programming; Craig Tabor: keyboards, John Medeski: keyboards; Mark Batson: keyboards; James Hurt: keyboards; Pete Cosey: guitar; Blackbyrd McKnight: guitar; Afoxe Filhos do Korin Efan: vocals; Pedrito Martinez: vocals; Amayo, Totonho: vocals; Felix Sanabria: percussion; Abdou Mboup: percussion; Afoxe Filhos do Korin Efan: percussion; Cortejo Afro: percussion; Terreon Gully: drums; JT Lewis: drums; Chason Walker; rap; Ruben: rap; B-Negao: rap; Ron Blake: horns; Casey Benjamin; horns; Graham Haynes: horns; Micah Gaugh: horns.

Title: Ancients Speak | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: LiveWired Music

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