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On her eighth recording as a leader for Blue Note, pianist and composer Renee Rosnes presents a pan global festival that has far reaching impact. Utilizing a revolving cast of characters on various numbers, Rosnes manages to synchronize the various “world music” influences in a seamless manner that never falls into the “mixed bag” syndrome. Old friends (husband and drummer Billy Drummond, saxophonists Chris Potter and Walt Weiskopf, bassist Christian McBride, etc.) mix with new friends bringing in African, Brazilian, and other exotic stimuli. Furthermore, all but two of the nine selections are original compositions penned by Rosnes herself.
The two most colorful offerings are up first. “Empress Afternoon” is a Turkish sounding delight buoyed by the tabla work of master musician Zakir Hussain, while “Senegal Son” celebrates the Highlife tradition with the djembe and marimba adding additional textures to the ensemble. In the same vein comes “Hanuman,” a Brazilian-inflected line full of samba rhythms and an energetic brass ensemble adding some musical punctuation.
Elegant and pensive moments are also to be found among the landscape and a trio version of “Ballad of the Sad Young Men” is particularly choice. So too is “The Quiet Earth,” where the trio is supplemented by a string ensemble and the results are a direct lineage from Steve Kuhn’s marvelous “strings and piano” affair from the late ‘60s, The October Suite.
Elsewhere, there’s the kind of fierce swinging hard bop that has been part and parcel of Renee’s approach since her early days with the late Joe Henderson. Both Chris Potter and Walt Weiskopf figure prominently into the mix here, as do drummers Jeff “Tain” Watts and Billy Drummond. Although it may be early in the year to make such predictions, suffice it to say that Life on Earth may just end up being among the best jazz releases of 2002.
Track Listing: Empress Afternoon, Senegal Son, Ballad of the Sad Young Men, Icelight, Gabriola Passage, The Quiet Earth, Hanuman, Nana, The Call of Triton
Personnel: Renee Rosnes (piano), Walt Weiskopf (soprano & tenor sax), Chris Potter (tenor sax & bass clarinet), Shelly Brown (flutes), Conrad Herwig (trombone), Douglas Purviance (bass trombone), Steve Turre (trombone & shells), David Gilmore (guitar), Steve Nelson (marimba), Christian McBride & John Patitucci (bass), Billy Drummond & Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums), Duduka Da Fonseca (drums, cameroon shells, ganza, Mica's bells, surdo, tamborim, agogo bell, cuica, repenique, triangle, cowbell), Zakir Hussain (tabla), Mor Thiam (djembe & vocals), Laura Seaton & Laura Oatts (violin), Ralph Farris (viola), Erik Friedlander & Sachi Patitucci (cello), Kevin Tarrant (vocals)