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Robert Hurst: Bob Ya Head

Mark F. Turner By

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With a spirit of optimism and new direction, veteran bassist Robert Hurst returns with two simultaneous releases on his Bebob recording label, that further expound on his leadership. The first, Unrehurst Vol. 2 , is an all-acoustic date with drummer Chris Dave and firebrand pianist Robert Glasper, recorded live in 2007 at the Smoke in New York City.

An educator, composer and bandleader, Hurst's accolades also include directing, arranging and composing for The Tonight Show, with Jay Leno; Emmy- and Grammy-winning works in film soundtracks such as Ocean's Eleven, and recordings with Charles Lloyd, Sting, and Diana Krall. With Bob Ya Head , Hurst has a few new tricks up his sleeves, shifting directions and pleasantly surprising via some eclectic and electronic artistry. While Unrehurst is a riveting unrehearsed swing-fest, Bob Ya Head is studio-intensive, equally persuasive, and even more engaging.

The release balances technical wizardry with Afro-centric and urban themes. Hurst's commanding upright resonates in "Obama Victory Dance," directing its energy to the lively "Optimism"'s hint of things to come—a joyful chorus of childrens' voices, electronic keyboards, and Hurst switching to pizzicato bass. The sampled speech by Civil Rights leader Malcolm X is effective in the improvised groove of "X Static" and the intermingled (processed and real) voices in the hip-hopped vibe of "Da, Da, Da, Dah." In each track, the music is an outlet for musicians and technology to creatively coexist.

As strong as Hurst is, this is by no means a singular effort, as Darryl "Munyungo" Jackson's percussion creates an infectious tempo in "Munyungo In Da Jungle." Saxophonist Vincent Bowens and veteran progressive keyboardist Scott Kinsey trade fiercely in the India-vocal percussive "Oral Roberto," and Bowens, trumpeter Marcus Belgrave and drummer Karriem Riggins ignite "Alice and John," a hypnotic track dedicated to Alice Coltrane and John Coltrane, donned with screeching horns and a bass loop of octaves and bowed strings.

Like Miles Davis's illustrious and at times criticized career, and other forward-thinking artists, Robert Hurst continue to affirm that jazz is not static; but a moving, living and evolving entity of self expression which can provide food for thought and the ability to dance in this appropriately titled release.

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