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The Bennie Maupin Ensemble: Penumbra

Jerry D'Souza By

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For whatever it's worth, Bennie Maupin will continue to be associated with Miles Davis' Bitches Brew, and to an extent with Herbie Hancock and his fusion phase. But times and circumstances have changed, and it is good to see Maupin get into an acoustic setting that draws attention to his playing and his music. It is telling that the title of the first tune refers to a love for novelty in the present day.

Maupin plays five instruments along with a bassist, a drummer and a percussionist, all of whom fit in just nicely and elevate his music, which is spare, open, spacious and often unhurried. His arrangements are little nuggets of invention. He builds "Penumbra on a sparse dialogue between Darek "Oles Oleszkiewicz's bass and Daryl Munyungo Jackson's percussion. Their quiet eloquence is raised when Maupin joins in on alto flute and Michael Stephans inflects accents on the cymbals. Maupin creates a soft sheen that's resplendent in its conception, flowing in quiet majesty.

The mood sweeps upbeat on "See the Positive. The rhythm section flexes a jumpy pulse which Maupin extends with a mellifluent air on soprano sax, wallowing in the melody and injecting it with sprightly verve. When Maupin wrote a "Message to Prez, he gave himself room to manoeuvre. A fissiparous opening where figures form and dissipate moves into a pronounced melodic body injected with sinew. The rhythm section brings in interesting contrasts: Oleszkiewicz keeps the beat pegged on the bass, while Jackson uses the shakers to swish across the lines of the bass clarinet.

A welcome return from Maupin.

Track Listing: Neophilia 2006; Walter Bishop, Jr.; Level Three; Blinkers; Penumbra; Mirror Image; Message To Prez; Tapping Things; Vapors; One For Eric Dolphy; See The Positive; Trop On A Rope; The 12th Day; Equal Justice.

Personnel: Bennie Maupin: bass clarinet, tenor and soprano saxophones, alto flute, piano; Darek Oleszkiewicz: bass; Michael Stephans: drums; Daryl Munyungo Jackson: percussion.

Title: Penumbra | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Cryptogramophone

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