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Babatunde Lea

Babatunde Lea is one of those old souls. You know the type: wise and serene, blessed with a culturally diverse perspective, bubbling over with ideas and creative energies that strongly suggest theyve been this way before; someone deeply in touch with the spiritual essences. Such an impression is borne out in spades by Tundes newest entry in the growing tradition of Motema Music. Suite Unseen: Summoner of the Ghost is a journey through the spirit world powered by contemporary, deeply sculpted grooves and articulations specially crafted by this master percussionist; all delivered by a high-spirited crew of musicians.

Im not a religious man, but I do believe in spirit, that it intervenes in our lives in mysterious ways. So I thought with this record I wanted to pay homage to the spirits. This suite is five melodic vignettes that call on the spirits, culminating in [5th and final movement] Summoner of the Ghosts. I get more technically adept as I grow and keep practicing, but the one thing that Im really sure of about my playing is that I can call the ghosts. To label Babatunde Lea a multiple percussionist is to recognize the holistic, global approach and depth of his skills, as both trap drummer from whence he primarily operates on this disc as well as hand drums and miscellaneous percussions from diverse sources.

Broad acceptance and critical acclaim were universal for Babatunde Leas 2003 Motema Music debut Soul Pool. Heres just a sampling: Soul Pools is an exceptional, spirited effort by a gifted artist (JazzTimes magazine). A sterling disc with tight ensemble work (Philadelphia Daily News). A master of trap drums and hand percussion, veteran Bay Area jazz musician Babatunde Lea plunges deep into the musical riches of the African diaspora on Soul Pools (The San Francisco Bay Guardian). Trombonist Ku-umba Frank Lacy and pianist Hilton Ruiz are standouts among percussionist Leas studio octet, but its Leas supple, flowing drum work that is the ongoing focal point (Down Beat magazine). What you get is highly disciplined, tightly arranged, Jazz Messengers-influenced soulful post-bop thats propelled, rather than ruled, by its leaders formidable technique (LA Weekly). Soul Pools is a pungent gumbo of familiar, yet fresh musical flavors (The Hartford Courant).

Suite Unseen: Summoner of the Ghost follows in that same tradition, with the intriguing twists of an ancient concept: communing with the spirits. Leas five-part suite serves as the albums spiritual and creative centerpiece, bridged by the interconnective tissue of nine other evocative pieces contributed in the main by Leas potent bandmates; notable contributors include tenor saxophonist Richard Howell, with whom Lea has enjoyed a 15-year partnership, and the perennial poll winning trombonist and conch shell specialist Steve Turre. Pianist Glen Pearson, and bassists Geoff Brennan and Ron Belcher round out the cast. From the boisterous, uplifting groove of Ancestral Stroll to the infectious chant and call to the spirits of the closing Summoner of the Ghost, Babatunde Lea has crafted a journey rich with the seasoning that jazz master and one-time Lea collaborator Randy Weston refers to as cultural memory.

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Album Review

JuJu: Message From Mozambique

Read "Message From Mozambique" reviewed by Chris May


There are many historic albums among the fifty or so titles released by the Strata-East label in the 1970s. But few have acquired the quasi-mythological stature of 1973's politically charged spiritual-jazz masterpiece Message From Mozambique by Bay Area tenor saxophonist Plunk Nkabinde and his band JuJu. The only disc to come close is Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson's proto-rap classic Winter In America (1974). Yet while that album has always been readily available on LP and CD, Message From Mozambique ...

364
Live Review

Babatunde Lea Quintet tributes Leon Thomas at Catalina Bar & Grill

Read "Babatunde Lea Quintet tributes Leon Thomas at Catalina Bar & Grill" reviewed by Dee Dee McNeil


Babatunde Lea QuintetTribute to Leon Thomas Catalina Bar & Grill Hollywood, California March 10, 2010 Four musicians quietly walked onto the Catalina Bar & Grill stage greeted by enthusiastic applause. But where was the bandleader? From the dressing room, Babatunde Lea sang to the packed room, with his strong voice filling the space like an evening prayer. He danced his way through the crowded tables, shaking a Shekere (a bead-covered gourd) ...

121
Album Review

Babatunde Lea: Suite Unseen: Summoner of the Ghost

Read "Suite Unseen: Summoner of the Ghost" reviewed by Jerry D'Souza


The summoner of the ghost goes on an African-inspired journey in jazz on Suite Unseen. That certainly says something for the music, and if that tag is the bait, then band of musicians that Babatunde Lea has gathered for the adventure is the lure. And there is no disappointment on this exciting journey with the call and the ambit being jazz in the mainstream. The addition of other elements serves to perk the path.

Lea dispenses with the ...

120
Album Review

Babatunde Lea: Suite Unseen: Summoner of the Ghost

Read "Suite Unseen: Summoner of the Ghost" reviewed by Eric J. Iannelli


Suite Unseen: Summoner of the Ghost is yet another practical reminder that one should never judge an album by its cover. Or its shamanistic title or overwritten liner notes, for that matter. What looks conspicuously like a sprawling world music effort is actually a relatively straight-ahead jazz session linked by African folk chants and Afro-Caribbean polyrhythms. That might explain why the small print on the reverse side advises clerks to “File under Jazz" instead of the less frequented areas of ...

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Album Review

Babatunde Lea: Suite Unseen: Summoner of the Ghost

Read "Suite Unseen: Summoner of the Ghost" reviewed by Alain Londes


An homage to ancestral spirits sets the context for Babatunde Lea's Suite Unseen: Summoner of the Ghost. The drummer/percussionist and educator has created a suite with a unique jazz flavor, complemented by additional musical textures and held together by a spiritual overtone. The stylistic nuances together generate an imaginative piece of music that is unpredictable yet connected at the same time. Quiet simply, it all fits together. The Suite Unseen is broken up into five separate movements with ...

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Album Review

Babatunde Lea and Phenomena: Levels of Consciousness

Read "Levels of Consciousness" reviewed by Rex  Butters


1979's Levels of Consciousness features San Francisco Bay Area percussionist Babatunde Lea’s familiar Afro-Caribbean mix shaded by the prevalent R&B phase of the time. At the center lies his sunny positivism and furious drumming prowess. The eclectic program includes funk, soul ballads, and jazz as played by guests Julian Priester, Eddie Henderson, and Mark Isham.

Muziki’s driving piano starts his “Thailand Stick,” a hopped-up horn arrangement bouncing off the complex rhythms. Hiroyuki Shido’s bass keeps the pressure on through Martin ...

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Interview

Babatunde Lea's Soul Pools

Read "Babatunde Lea's Soul Pools" reviewed by Javier AQ Ortiz


Babatunde Lea will not forget 2003. Shortly after releasing Soul Pools , his fourth recording as a leader, his inspirer 'Babatunde Olatunji' passed away. Lea's beat, conversely, is livelier than ever and honoring in high spirits the induction of Olatunji into jazz's pantheon of collective memoirs.

Conceptually speaking, Lea's latest recording is akin to the curing properties experienced in his prescient and life-changing initial encounter with Olatunji almost half a century ago. It seems to nourish both his ...

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