One of the true challenges faced by the creative artist is the need to evolve over the course of a career, to respect the past while staring unflinchingly toward the future. This is especially true of improvising musicians, who do this while inextricably in the moment, creating structure from chaos, revealing the future in the blinding light of the present. Multi-instrumentalist Bennie Maupin takes on this challenge with Penumbra, a release that marks him as one of the true visionaries living today. Maupin is no stranger to jazz stages; he's been performing professionally for almost fifty years. He's kept a low profile throughout his career, but it seems that his days in the jazz periphery are over.
Penumbra is a wonderful album, thoughtfully conceived and masterfully executed. Maupin's quartet of bassist Darek "Oles Oleszkiewicz, drummer Michael Stephans and percussionist Daryl Munyungo Jackson play as one, establishing delicate settings that quietly belie the deep groove that prevails. The album's name comes from astronomy, referring to a partial shadow between regions of complete shadow and complete illumination and aptly describes the music it contains. Maupin masterfully toys with shades in "Walter Bishop Jr., his tenor a ray of light cutting through Oles' shadowy line.
On record and live at The Standard in April, 2007, "Message to Prez stands out as the highlight. The tune is a meditation on a line that Lester Young may very well have played, albeit in an entirely different setting. In unison with Oles' bass, Maupin states the melody before improvising with sublime restraint and creativity. His lines hang like wisps of smoke over the vamping bass and brushed shuffle, diatonic except for moments of aching, glowing dissonance.
Neophilia 2006; Walter Bishop Jr.; Level Three; Blinkers; Penumbra; Mirror Image; Message to Prez; Tapping Things; Vapors; One For Eric Dolphy; See The Positive; Trope on a Rope; The 12th Day; Equal Justice.
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