Ahmad Alaadeen is a saxophonist and composer who makes music that manages to be both lyrical and hard-hitting, and not coincidentally, he's from Kansas City, with its rich jazz tradition. His latest album is New Africa Suite (not to be confused with a Grachan Moncur III record of the same name), and it is top-shelf.
Alaadeen wrote all the music here, and each piece has a catchy, attractive theme with intricate harmonies and construction to challenge the improvisers. And whether it's the funk of "Beneath Where Rivers Flow" or the flat-out swing of "The Burning Sand," he and his band are up to every challenge.
While Alaadeen operates within traditional bop and post bop parameters, he's a thoroughly original musician. He produces a full, rich tone on both his horns, and he doesn't sound like anyone else. He plays lines that are full of singing beauty, and at the same time, he invests them with the flowing swing that is unique to his home town. Awareness of modern musical trends enters his music, as in his use of a hip-hop rhythm on "The Jannah Now," which is nonetheless unmistakably jazz.
Throughout, Alaadeen has the support of a very together rhythm section, although the band on "The Jannah Now" is different from the band on the rest of the album. These rhythm sections are tight and precise. They're also loose and telepathic, just as jazz of this caliber requires. Pianist Harold O'Neal is especially effective, using his impressive technique to create improvisations that swing with fluid and unpredictable movement. His support of Alaadeen is unwavering and harmonically rich. As for bassist Seth Lee, drummer Donivan Bailey, and percussionist Ray Stewart, their blend is seamless, even during the most complex, fiery passages. The different rhythm section on "The Jannah Now" exhibits similar virtues. Alaadeen deserves much greater recognition. New Africa Suite is highly recommended.
Track Listing: Grace; Beneath Where Rivers Flow; Salaam, Shalom, Peace; The Burning Sand; Time's Up; Home Again; The Jannah Now.
Personnel: Alaadeen: tenor and soprano saxophones; Harold O'Neal: piano; Seth Lee: bass; Donivan
Bailey: drums; Ray Stewart: percussion. Track 7: Alaadeen: soprano saxophone;
Christopher Clarke: piano; Tyrone Clark: electric bass; Michael Warren: drums; Ray Stewart: