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Ian Dogole is a percussionist of considerable skill, character, invention and individuality. This ensemble that he has put togetherHemispheresmight otherwise be passed over as just another world fusion group. It is also graced by multi-reed artist Paul McCandless, who just happens to be co-founder of the legendary band, Oregon. The uniqueness of Crossroads is further evidence that Dogole has stamped this ensemble to a large extent with his individualism. This is also a kind of counterbalance for McCandless, who cannot help bringing the gravitas of that breathtaking Oregonian sound to the group. Further counterpoint is, of course, provided by clever addition of the second reedman, Sheldon Brown and Frank Martin's expansive, filigreed work on the piano. All this makes for a rather unusual record.
Hemispheres undulates with the sound of myriad interesting roots. There is a gentle modal swing reminiscent of John Coltrane, and the music of the ensemble weaves in and out of harmonic invention that recalls a certain classical as well as folksy/ bluesy influence. This latter inflection is not unlike Bela Bartok's approach to the melding of those elements in his late-period work. But throughout the absorbing aural expedition, the music never loses its swaying linear charm. There are original compositions from Dogole, Sheldon Brown and also two classic re-castings: one, fellow Oregon co-founder Ralph Towner's "The Glide"; and two, McCandless' "Spirits of Another Sort." The group also deconstructs the late Woody Shaw's "Katrina Ballerina," while Dogole's gently sonorous "Intro to Katrina" breathes new life into Shaw's original track.
"The Glide" and "Spirits of Another Sort" are refreshing, and although it might be hard not to imagine the Oregon originals, both Dogole's ingenious percussion and Sheldon Brown's reed work are the key reasons why these tracks are a thrill to hear again. Brown also emerges as a skillful composer; on his "Fathers and Sons," the loping melodic lines bring the narrative of the song to an emotionally-charged conclusion, but not before Martin and Dogole weave an intricate path for McCandless' English horn and Brown's reeds to undulate through the song's middle passage. Dogole's other track, a feature for an unusual steel-pan-like instrument called the "hang," marks his ability to lighten the colors of a song with the mere tapping of bare hands.
The final track blends well with the other music of the record, while also standing on its own. "Zarbi," written by Iranian musician Hossein Alizadeh, is the only live track. It features echoing, floating vocals and Sufi lyrics, as well as additional percussion on a folk drum from the Mid-East, the tombak. The bass clarinets of the two reed players and Bill Douglass' steady ostinato bass in this ethereal 5/4 track leave its melody in memory long after the final notes fade. What an eerily haunting way to close the record.
Track Listing: The Glide; Fathers and Sons; Golden Heart/Guiding Spirit; Intro to Katrina; Katrina Ballerina; Spirits of Another Sort; Running Shadows; Mirror Images; Zarbi.
Personnel: Ian Dogole: cajon (1, 5, 7), dumbek (2, 9), cymbals (1, 2, 5, 6), splash cymbal (1, 7, 9); global drum set (3), kalimba (4), hang (8); Sheldon Brown: clarinet (2, 6, 9), bass clarinet (9), piccolo (7), soprano saxophone (2, 3, 5), tenor saxophone (1); Bill Douglass: double-bass; Frank Martin: piano; Paul McCandless: soprano saxophone (1, 2, 7, 9), English horn (2, 6), bass clarinet (3, 5, 9); Hossein Massoudi: vocals, tombak (9).
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.