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Canadian composer, pipe organist scholar, classically trained pianist and social worker Kathy Kidd is a well traveled/educated artist who has embarked on lengthy field-study trips to Europe, India, Turkey and other intriguing spots on the globe. On Hajii which is Arabic for one who undertakes the pilgrimage to Mecca, Ms Kidd exhibits her worldly education and interest for disparate musical forms as she, along with a fine ensemble intelligently meld East and West along with Afro-Cuban rhythms in concert with traditional jazz arrangements.
Hajii is a delightful recording that features Ms Kidd’s skillful and somewhat subtle integration of the “Casavant Pipe Organ” into many of these pieces which border various genres as the sum of the parts equates to a cross-platform or genre hopping approach. Compositions such as “Lagos Fugue” are gleeful, rhythmically charged and offer pleasing horn charts as Ms. Kidd provides color and tonal contrast while utilizing the pipe organ. “Fly My Beloved” boasts a memorably melodic horn arrangement which at times, rekindles thoughts of late ‘60s West Coast jazz stylizations as the bright, cheery themes and heterogeneous Afro-Cuban rhythms provide the forward motion, enhanced by Graham Ord’s light-as-a-feather flute performance. “Rahawi” is a rather hypnotic and spirited piece featuring soft percussion, yet seamlessly transgresses into a series of semi-complex arrangements aided by poignant themes accelerated by Francois Houle’s wonderfully constructed clarinet solo. *Francois Houle is a major jazz solo artist who has produced several fine solo recordings over the years.
”Cheick De Mali” is yet another fine composition, which is somewhat emblematic of Ms Kidd’s textural approach including catchy harmonies and listener friendly melodies. Here, Graham Ord embarks on a soulful, gutsy and passionate tenor sax solo that adds spice and a strong sense of dynamics to the overall tone of this piece as Ms Kidd reworks the melody with a sweet-tempered and probing piano solo. The final track titled “Organ Gloria” proceeds as a Bach-like “organ fugue” along with all of the classical connotations complete with African rhythms. Now there’s a twist! However, it all works as the band investigate a hodgepodge of motifs and melodies that naturally fit into the framework of the ongoing development while the ensemble furnishes the listener with an 11 minute tour of the world.
Hajii is a delightfully appealing effort and an unexpected surprise for what has been an interesting and fruitful year for jazz. With this release, Ms. Kidd succeeds at blending cross-cultural themes, ideas and concepts into a broad context, which is evident, yet at times transparent to the listener. That alone warrants consideration as Hajii deserves widespread recognition! Highly Recommended....* * * * ½