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Darius Jones: Man'ish Boy (A Raw & Beautiful Thing)

John Sharpe By

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Matthew Shipp once opined that Darius Jones arrived on the scene fully formed, and that is not far from the truth. His first appearance of note was at the 2008 Vision Festival, as part of trumpeter Lewis Flip Barnes' Hampton Roads, confirming that Virginia native Jones was indeed the real McCoy. This debut recording with his own trio, which was a high point of the 2009 Vision Festival, backs that up with one of the strongest offerings of the year.

An alto saxophonist whose sound drips with passion, Jones has recruited a heavyweight lineup with the grizzled Cooper-Moore on piano and diddley-bow and Rakalam Bob Moses on drums, no less imbued with the spirit. In the 52-minute program, five Jones originals are interspersed with more freely improvised excerpts which both provide variation and make the fervor of the compositions, about Jones' life growing up in the South, all the more alluring.

Jones has a talent for penning intensely emotional themes, which provide a fertile launching pad for his vibrato-laden alto preaching. Whether hollering in a multiphonic falsetto or punctuating his keening cries with gutbucket blasts, the saxophonist exudes complete authority. In this he is aided by Cooper-Moore's freewheeling piano and down-and-dirty diddley-bow, which more than compensate for the lack of a bass. From lush chording embellishments to propulsive bass figures, Cooper-Moore's pianistics are a delight. Moses impels the trio forward on his rumbling multi-dimensional percussive carpet, whether wielding brushes or what even sounds like the kitchen sink.

"Roosevelt" acts as a short prelude, providing a haunting statement for what is to come, while "Cry Out," powered by a rolling piano figure, revels in the contrast of soulful alto over syncopated piano and drums, spiced by a splendidly discursive Cooper-Moore solo. From the richly voiced alto/piano ballad "Meekness" to the exploratory long held notes of "Salty" and the driving eastern tonalities of "Chasing the Ghost," the trio display a tight collective sensibility.

However, it is the valedictory, elegiac "Forgive Me" which marks the highlight of the album. Once the cadences of Cooper-Moore's hymn-like piano introduction give way to Jones' wavering, vulnerable alto, it sounds like a newly found spiritual, with some of most beautiful sounds ever committed to disc.

After such a stirring conclusion, the producers rightfully leave a gap before programming the 10-minute live bonus track "Chaych" featuring Jones testifying in a different, more knotty trio setting with Adam Lane on bass and Jason Nazary on drums. While the main trio manages fine without a bassist, this outing serves notice that they need look no further than Lane—with his muscular rhythmic sense and powerful booming tone—if they ever wish to avail themselves.

Track Listing: Roosevelt; Cry Out; We Are Unicorns; Meekness; Salty; Chasing The Ghost; Big Train Rollin'; Forgive Me; Chaych.

Personnel: Darius Jones: alto saxophone; Cooper-Moore: piano and diddley-bo; Rakalam Bob Moses: drums; Adam Lane: bass (9); Jason Nazary: drums (9).

Title: Man'ish Boy (A Raw & Beautiful Thing) | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: AUM Fidelity

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