Artfully blending world musics within a jazz context, Jordan McLean has lent his articulate trumpet to ethnic aggregations such as the Sway Machinery and Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra. For his first release as a leader, he guides this unique nonet, Fire of Space, through original compositions that alternate funky dance music with open space invocations filling his new Handbasket with plenty of colors. Reeds abound and the nine instruments allow for singular voicings that, along with McLean's horn, include Michael Herbst's oboe, English horn, tenor sax and flute; Stuart Bogie's soprano and contra-alto clarinets; Aaron Johnson's trombone; Martin Penna's baritone; and Leah Paul's alto flute.
The traditional Turkish folk tune "Rampi Rampi is served up as a blistering entrée into the session as percussionist Geoff Mann and bassist Thomas Abbs pump out a highly danceable rhythm that pulsates through the fiery Middle Eastern changes. A meditatively pleading "Quiet (as the Birds of Fewa), decorated by Shoko Nagai's chordal organ, reflects the cry of near extinct Tibetan avians before the title cut, resplendent in baritone sax riffs, driving rhythms and McLean's punching solo work, funks up the house.
A long journey into the "Valleys of Jade traverses some intriguing musical territory as double oboe and clarinet lead the way through a decidedly Mid Eastern motif. Another burner follows, complete with real "Children's Voices, exploring this band's stellar command of infectious rhythms and exposing the heretofore unknown deep funkiness in the contra-alto clarinet. The freedom of "Asifina Dream, portrayed by arco bass and organ, gives way to a deliciously sleazy tenor trip that picks up stray instruments to form a vagabond choir before solemn organistic chords signal a final group "Prayer to the Elders.
All of these multiple timbres work together surprisingly well, making for an exceptionally interesting soundscapetestimony to McLean's strong compositions and leadership skills.
Track Listing: Rampi Rampi; Quiet (as the Birds of Fewa); Handbasket; Valleys of Jade; Children's Voices; Asifina Dream; Prayer to the Elders.
Personnel: Michael Herbst: oboe, English horn, tenor saxophone, flute; Stuart Bogie: clarinet, contra-alto clarinet; Jordan McLean: trumpet; Aaron Johnson: trombone; Geoff Mann: drums; Shoko Nagai: organ, pianette, percussion; Thomas Abbs: double bass; Martin Perna: baritone saxophone; Leah Paul: alto flute.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.