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Bob Gluck/Billy Hart/Eddie Henderson/Christopher Dean Sullivan: Infinite Spirit - Revisiting Music of the Mwandishi Band

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Composer/musician, author, educator and spiritual leader, Bob Gluck, brings a long-term, multi-media project full circle with the release of Infinite Spirit, Revisiting Music of the Mwandishi Band. Motivated by Gluck's research and interviews for his excellent book, You'll Know When You Get There: Herbie Hancock and The Mwandishi Band (University of Chicago Press, 2012), he assembled a mix of musicians from the Hancock, Swahili named sextet and his long-standing trio for a fresh take on Mwandishi numbers and some original inspirations.

Though their lifespan and recorded output were abbreviated, the Mwandishi Band would come to be regarded as pioneering. Hancock's evolving vision was broadly exploratory, especially where electronics, free improvisation and liberal post-production enhancement expanded the traditional language of jazz. On Infinite Spirit drummer, Billy Hart and trumpeter Eddie Henderson, original members of what was officially called the Herbie Hancock Sextet are joined by Gluck's long-time trio bassist Christopher Dean Sullivan. A significant difference between Gluck's quartet and Hancock's group lies in the density and interpretation of the music.

The Mwandishi Band which also included bassist Buster Williams, Bennie Maupin on various reeds and trombonist Julian Priester (before expanding further), had a horn-heavy presence, Hancock's Fender Rhodes adding even more busyness. In the hands of Gluck's quartet, the cover pieces are cleaner, punchier and feel completely modern. Hancock's "Sleeping Giant" opens with a bracing four-minute drum solo augmented with Gluck's subdued electronics. Gluck comes in on piano, toying with harmony and managing to be both spiky and graceful. Henderson's solo is remarkable; earthy and freewheeling, he's never sounded better. At more than seventeen minutes, "You'll Know When You Get There" is given a pleasingly off-balance treatment, Sullivan coaxing abrasive sounds from the bass in contrast to Henderson's sometimes stately reading and Gluck's rapid-fire raining down of notes inter-dispersed with rich chord work.

The medley of Gluck's title track from his trio album Sideways (FMR, 2008) and Maupin's "Quasar" features a meditative opening from the pianist, taken over by an expansively melodic Henderson solo. Sullivan's pulsing movement seamlessly guides the piece through multiple transitions. A bass solo and some chirpy electronics open the original Sullivan composition, "Spirit Unleashed." Hart takes over the rhythm, pushing and pulling the piece as it heads from structured to open improvisation. Maupin's "Water Torture" closes the album with the most overtly funky foundation though it eventually moves into a more abstract swing.

Of course, paying tribute to the Mwandishi Band wouldn't be complete without the electronic element, but, in all honesty, Infinite Spirit would not have suffered without that component. That said, this is an extraordinary album filled with great music, each piece running into double-digit playing times. Hart and Henderson are ageless wonders, sounding as if they are just hitting their prime. The empathy among players is clear. It may be somewhat sacrilegious to say, but Gluck and company have taken this music into the new millennium and made it their own, more energetic and focused and a start-to-finish joy to listen to.

Track Listing

Sleeping Giant; You’ll Know When You Get There; Sideways/Quasar; Spirit Unleashed; Water Torture.

Personnel

Bob Gluck: piano, electronics; Billy Hart: drums; Eddie Henderson: trumpet; Christopher Dean Sullivan: bass.

Album information

Title: Infinite Spirit - Revisiting Music of the Mwandishi Band | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: FMR Records


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