Dwight Trible is a preacher, turning any material into a song of praise. Trible taps into the tradition of assigning lyrics to existing jazz standards, aligning himself with King Pleasure, Jon Hendricks, and Eddie Jefferson. He stands firmly in the jazz singer’s domain of delivering a song true to its story while composing variations on the tune as he goes.
On Trible’s new collection he arranges, produces, and writes lyrics to melodically and rhythmically challenging compositions. Take for instance the opener, Coltrane’s “Wise One.” Given a portentous send off with John Rangel’s deep chords, Trible’s elastic baritone maneuvers through the modulations on words he honed to fit the tune and the recording's main philosophical device.
Like a shaman at the center of a storm, Trible’s surrounded by the swirling music of his band. John Rangel brings the tempest to ground, doubling bassist Trevor Ware’s line on Bill Lee’s “John Coltrane.” Joshua Spiegelman plays an exotic flute with Derf Reklaw’s easy congas, brightened up with Trible’s kalimba. Joining vocalists Waberi and Jon Williams in a tightly written vocal arrangement, Trible creates a delicious chorus on lines like “prophet with a loving heart of gold.” He takes athletic improvisations with the melody before turning it over to Spiegelman and ladder climbing Harold Land, Jr. on piano, then the ensemble assembles in tiers that cascade like a round.
Ware’s fat bass strings bring Abdullah Ibrahim’s “Ishmael” into being, quickly joined on percussion by Adam Rudolph. Trible lays out some falsetto before singing a wordless chorus with Waberi and Williams, joined by Charles Owens on soprano sax. Ware drives the piece with drummer Daniel Bejarano spacious on mallets. Trible sings an impassioned take on the melody followed by Owen’s warm soprano. Rudolph uses shakers and rattles for ambiance, while Rangel adds subtle color. Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints” has Bobby West using a light touch on piano, and shading with synth chorus. West digs in for a sinewy solo.
Using Abby Lincoln’s lyrics, Trible takes on Coltrane’s “Africa,” with a powerful production that includes poet Kamau Daaood. Ware keeps connected to the original with drummers Bejarano, Reklaw, and Munyungo Jackson slapping skins. With bamboo flute, Spiegelman ornaments Trible’s cry to the motherland. Poet Daaood recites his vision of hope called “The Living Waters,” his sonorous voice buoyed by the drummers. With a church bell as intro, Trible completes the set with an acapella liturgical plea for peace.
A lush tropical feel pervades the disc, making it warmly sensual in its presentation of the sacred. As with any Dwight Trible project, the mind is refreshed, the heart expanded, the soul enlightened, and the ears licked.