While the discography of saxophonist Erica Lindsay is yet relatively modest, she still plays with the knowledge and authority of a seasoned musician. Initiation sees her teaming up with an old acquaintance, pianist Sumi Tonooka, and together they make a profoundly swinging and poetic music whose life-affirming quality it is hard to deny.
"Mari" immediately grabs the attention, setting forth some infectious rhythms, courtesy of the late drummer Bob Braye and preeminent bassist Rufus Reid. While Braye and Reid keep the music in constant motion, Tonooka and Lindsay are allowed to engage in a telepathic musical conversation, and throughout the album they span the mood from blue balladry to playful grooves.
Initiation consists entirely of original material and Lindsay and Tonooka contribute five compositions each. While the up-tempo tunes of "Initiation," "Black Urgency" and "Yes" certainly add variety to the program, it is the ballads that are the highlights of the album.
"The Gift" is a moving tribute to Lindsay's late mother. Accompanied by Braye's gentle mallet work and Reid's understated bass lines. Toonoka introduces the melody, playing light as air, before Lindsay digs deep into the song, managing to convey a feeling of both gratitude and loss. Toonoka's "Mingus Mood" is another successful ballad with its memorable melody and soulful playing from Lindsay. Like Charles Mingus, to whom the tune is dedicated, there's a feeling of emotional urgency, which never comes across as overdone or forced.
Initiation represents the meeting of two musicians whose lives are translated into music. There are no fancy tricks or cheap showmanship to be found here, just pure artistic honesty.
Mari; Mingus Mood; South Street; Initiation; Serpent's Tale; In the Void; Somewhere Near Heaven; Black Urgency; The Gift; Yes.
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