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Sonic Liberation 8 with Classical Revolution Trio & Oliver Lake: Bombogenic

Dave Wayne By

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There are a few artists out there who are successfully merging authentic traditional Afro-Cuban and Caribbean rhythms with 21st Century jazz in a way that refers to, but doesn't sound like, typical Latin jazz: Adam Rudolph's Go Organic Orchestra and Kip Hanrahan's various groups immediately come to mind. Taking their cues equally from the early 70s recordings of Miles Davis and Weather Report, from Ornette Coleman and Sun Ra, and from contemporary composers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen and Morton Feldman, the music generated by such hybrids can be truly remarkable. There's something intoxicating about the way these different forms bump and grind against each other. When it's on, this type of music becomes a hypnotically sensual brew of polyrhythms and exotic tonalities. Though he's more part of the pop world, guitarist / vocalist Arto Lindsay is another artist who's cognizant of the bewitching nature of these sorts of fusions. On Lindsay's album Prize (Righteous Babe Records, 1999), the juxtaposition of a dour string quartet with Skoota Warner's unrelentingly funky drums and the sampled sounds of a Brazilian escola de samba comes across as a stroke of musical genius. There's something magical—a sense of ritual, perhaps—going on in this particular combination of sounds that stays with the listener long after the record is over.

Much of the Sonic Liberation 8's new release, Bombogenic, has something similar going for it. Here, it's the fricative forces which emerge when "classical" strings encounter Yoruba-inspired Afro-Cuban bata drumming and the keening sounds of modern jazz woodwinds. Of course, Bombogenic did not come about by accident. Led by Kevin Diehl, one of those rare percussionists who has mastered both the art of the traditional jazz drum kit and traditional Afro-Cuban hand drumming, Bombogenic is the Sonic Liberation band's eighth album, and a celebration of their 15th year of existence. The addition of the Classical Revolution String Trio and jazz legend Oliver Lake to the core band is a great example of the whole becoming something greater than its already impressive parts. It's also worth mentioning that Bombogenic is available as a long-playing album, as well in the more familiar CD and MP3 formats.

The opening track, "Tin Palace," finds the band exploring its modern jazz roots. A brief piece, and one of the few on Bombogenic with prominent trap drumming, it is followed by "Coolin' It," a slower-paced tune in 6/8 with Veronica Jurkiewicz' viola joining the front line. Bass clarinetist Mike Watson and long-time Philly multi-reed stalwart Elliot Levin are the featured soloists, and both dispense some deep improvisational wisdom. Deeper into Side 1 of the LP, the Afro-Cuban and Yoruban traditional elements gradually become more prominent, as if Deihl and company are demonstrating exactly how their music is put together. The strings emerge fully on Diehl's adaptation of Erik Satie's "Gnossienne" giving it a distinctly Afro-Cuban danzon flavor.

The meat of Bombogenic is on Side 2, however, where Lake joins in. Not just a guest soloist, the jazz legend also wrote two pieces, "Streamin'" and "Floatin'" specifically for the Sonic Liberation 8 plus strings. Both have that magical something mentioned above: that unique tension one hears when strings and traditional polyrhythms are pitted against each other in a different context. Diehl's original "Cyclogenic," unfortunately draws to a close before its similar potentialities are fully realized. On the plus side, his arrangement of Lake's "Love Like Sisters" is imbued with a Gospel-like fervor, upon which Lake places a glorious and deeply-felt exclamation point of a solo. "Floatin'" is the most truly "out jazz" statement on the disc. Here, the massed drums, with Levin and Watson in tow, simply follow Lake's blazing alto until the strings and bass set up an angular ostinato. The whole thing does, indeed, float away on a cheery boogaloo-like rhythm.

Track Listing: Tin Palace; Coolin’ It; Bombogenic; The Culprit; Gnossienne; Streamin’; Cyclogenic; Love Like Sisters; Floatin’.

Personnel: Kevin Diehl: drums, Bata Iya; Matt Engle; bass; Elliot Levin: woodwinds; Veronica Jurkiewicz: viola; Mike Watson: bass clarinet; Nichola Rivera: Bata Itotele & Iya, conga; Tom Lowery: drums, Afro Brazilian percussion; Ron Howerton: Bata Okonkolo, conga, percussion; Shawn Dade Beckett: Okonkolo (5); Russell Kotcher: violin; Eric Coyne: cello; Melanie Hsu: cello (5-9); Oliver Lake – alto saxophone (6-9).

Title: Bombogenic | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: High Two Recordings

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