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Brent Birckhead: Birckhead

Mike Jurkovic By

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As an alumnus of Lauryn Hill, Nas, George Duke, and Larry Graham as well as a Downbeat Award winner for outstanding instrumentalist, alto saxophonist Brent Birckhead has certainly absorbed his influences well. So it's anyone's conjecture why he would possibly want to undermine his musical intentions by intro-ing his eponymous release with a brief but utterly predictable bit of fusion before getting down to some serious business.

Fleeting bits of predictability nag throughout, most noticeably on "Flux," which starts out with a popping Romeir Mendez bass solo before devolving into a too smooth, too cool caricature of early '70s cool jazz. Birckhead and company kick into gear on the driving, high flying, sparring nu-bop of "The Alchemist" with guitarist Samir Moulay flashing hot licks against Birckhead's liberated free form and pianist Mark G Meadows virtual command of the entire track. Meadows and trumpeter Corey Wallace lead the way on "4 and 6," solidly embodying the leader's multitude of ideas and concerns wildly into one delicious frenzy carried by whichever voice steps to the fore. "Song for Nicole" preludes breathily, sensuously then grows more expansive and impassioned.

Birckhead closes the album with his strongest statements. Bridging his activist sensibilities and his musical experimentation, "The Witching Hour" comes at you like shots fired on any given American night, while the ensemble builds from quiet shock to full on fury, roller coasting along as Birckhead screams defiance and raw emotion. There is no pun intended with "The Mourning After," as the sax pulls together a myriad of emotional responses swelling to the anthemic sized Donny Hathaway-penned "Someday We'll All Be Free."

Track Listing: 3 Uptown; The Alchemist; Flux; 4 and 6; Song for Nicole (prelude); Song for Nicole; 4 and 6 (interlude); The Ivory Antidote; The Witching Hour; The Mourning After; Someday We’ll All Be Free.

Personnel: Brent Birckhead: alto saxophone; Greg Wallace: trombone; Samir Moulay: guitar; Mark Meadows: keyboards; Romeir Mendez: bass; Carroll Dashiel III: drums.

Title: Birckhead | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Ivory Antidote Music

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