There is a powerful earthy ambience to bass/violin duet environment of Epic Ebony Journey. Bassist Avery Sharpe provides thick, pulsing chords beneath the humid flight of John Blake's violin. This landscape is best detected in the disc's closer, the Isham Jones standard, "There is No Greater Love". Here Sharpe lays out the groundwork for Blake's flight of fancy, and then they trade places. This fertile and virile spirit permeates the remainder of the recording also. Epic Ebony Journey is a musical documentation of the struggle in the African-American experience. "Movin' Up" and "Prayer Meetin'" are Mingus-esque tomes full of the history of the blues, jazz, and gospel music. "Underground Railroad" sports some moaning arco from Sharpe.
The duo is a splendid platform for examining the bare essentials of melody and harmony. "Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child" is the perfect vehicle for earthy music that intersects with a jazz sensibility. Sharpe's rhythmic arco firmly grounds Blake's violin lament. John Coltrane's "Mr. P.C." receives a stripped-down, supercharged reading with Blake shooting spitfire notes, forming an aural halo around Sharpe's foundation. Blake takes a solo shot at McCoy Tyner's "Passion Dance", pushing the melody to the limits. Sharpe's own "Jim Crow" provides the bassist with his own spotlight. Sometimes the simple things are best. This is one of those times.
Track Listing: Movin' Up; Prayer Meetin'; Underground Railroad; Motherland; Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child; His Eyes On The Sparrow; Maiden Dance; Freefall; Mr. P.C.; Promised Land; Jim Crow; There Is No Greater Love. (Total Time: 60:57)
Personnel: Avery Sharpe: Bass; John Blake, Jr.: Violin.
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.