All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Pay $20 and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page, plus this box and the slideout box on the right for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.
Makanda Ken McIntyre left behind a wealth of music, some of which appears on this recording. He was an innovator and, if memory need be jogged, this release serves to accomplish that in no uncertain terms. Recorded in 1995 and 1996, McIntyre transformed the music here by overdubbing instruments. That in itself may not mean much, but what makes this compelling is that by turning them into quartet woodwind combinations, he underlined the cogency and the measure of his imagination.
One of the headiest pieces is called "Puunti," on which he plays the saxophones, the soprano raising its sweet voice to the skies and swaying to a calypso beat as the baritone finds its place tapping against the melodic line. The alto swerves in with short bursts and then the tenor adds the second musical voice. If this is calypso manna, so is a serving of "Peas 'n' Rice" given a different ambit through the clarinets. The straight and narrow is not for him and he takes a trajectory twisting notes, knotting them, unravelling the skein using long lines and sharp interjection, all the while punctuating with the bass clarinet. The flutes are the perfect combination for "Charshee," a ballad of some charm that floats softly and gently without leaving its soul behind. And the oboe, bassoon and English horn serve up some decidedly delicious "Chitlins & Cavyah," ringing tones heralding the blues in unison lines and then breaking free of the form and rolling into freer terrain.
McIntyre assimilates the instruments beautifully. His arrangements make use of space to weave tight textures or use a tight line to add counterpoint and extend the body. More, he holds the music together with a sure sense of structure and development.