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Robert Hurst: Bob a Palindrome

Hrayr Attarian By

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Bassist and composer Robert Hurst's sixth release as a leader Bob a Palindrome crackles with excitement and brims with innovative ideas. Leading a superlative ensemble made up of long time collaborators, Hurst presents eight of his compositions that range from the impressionistic to the intimately poetic.

The pièce de résistance is the dramatic three part "Middle Passage Suite" that unfolds with an Ellingtonian (pianist, bandleader composer Duke Ellington) flair. The first section opens with percussionist Adam Rudolph setting an ominous ambience with his rumbling beats and rattling shakers. Rudolph together with Hurst's bowed bass drone and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts' crashing cymbals conjures images of a dark stormy sea. Hurst and Rudolph provide the framework for the second act with their somber and hypnotic continuously evolving vamp with North African sensibilities. Hurst's pensive and edgy pizzicato bass raises the curtain on the third. The movement features a passionate adlib dialogue between saxophonist Branford Marsalis' blistering and articulate soprano and reedman Bennie Maupin's gritty and intelligent tenor. The soulful piece closes with a delightful cacophony that is at once melancholic, lively and tinged with exuberance and rage.

In contrast, the deceptively simple melodies that form the foundations of both "Big Queen" and "Little Queen" are warm and lyrical with a Latin lilt to them. Trumpeter Marcus Belgrave's cool, clean and full-bodied flugelhorn blows over the bubbling hot rhythms and reeds on the former. Pianist Robert Glasper's Cubanesque improvisation cascades over the dark, horn driven vamps that conclude the tune. On the latter Glasper switches to Fender- Rhodes, as his shimmering resonant keys sound vaguely like vibraphone bars as he thrills with an intelligent, sing song extemporization. Marsalis' warm, serpentine soprano develops into an idyllic and imaginative ode.

In addition to being an intriguing composer and a consummate bandleader, Hurst excels at spontaneous creativity. His mellow, deep con arco bass on the fantastical "3 for Lawrence" is fluid in its virtuosity and complex in structure. The track also showcases Maupin's muscular and agile alto flute that undulates with an almost a Levantine touch.

Full of stimulating and clever musical twists, ardent and eloquent soloists and a thematic coherence, this superb album is destined to be a classic.

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