True to her nature, saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin keeps the flame to the dynamite on her smoking follow-up to the wildfire of Pursuance (Ropeadope, 2020), her still hot-to-the-touch dedication to the music and spirituality of John Coltrane and Alice Coltrane.
Co-produced with maximum female power by Benjamin and Terri Lyne Carrington, the torrential riptide "Amerikkan Skin" ambushes one's consciousness via the urgency of police sirens only to give way to the equally urgent dictum of radical thinker, activist, educator and not-too-long-ago political prisoner, Angela Davis. Revolutionary hope abides in the women who have been abandoned by history . . .This is the era of women, Davis intones defiantly, while an equally defiant Benjamin, her glistening alto primed for action, pilots trumpeter Josh Evans, keyboardist Victor Gould, synthesist Julius Rodriguez, drummer E.J. Strickland, bassist Ivan Taylor and percussionist Negah Santos through a rousing, feverish post-bop romp with the all the modern stylings. No other record beside Phoenix could begin this way.
Written in response to the scorching summer we emerged into after the worst of the plague was (hopefully) behind us, "New Mornings" with its taut and punchy cool-blue veneer is the perfect foil to the spacier exploration of the title track. With LA's preeminent avant-garde singer/multi-instrumentalist Georgia Anne Muldrow on synths, Benjamin's forceful and expansive sound and vision emerges bolder than ever. "Jubilation," driven in equal parts by guest pianist Patrice Rushen's genre-jumping fearlessness further serves to open Benjamin's already big tent, which naturally delivers us to the jazzoetry of poet Sonia Sanchez and Taylor's nimble, deep rooted double bass on "Peace Is A Haiku Song" and its driving companion, the marching blast of "Blast."
Earthen and defiant, Benjamin carries the old masters in her bones, making such trailblazing barn burners as "Moods" (with Josh Evans' high-flying trumpet circling Benjamin's gravity defying alto while Gould forcefully punches the tune forward) and the quieter but no less defining "Rebirth," not just homages to the past but beacons to the future. So too "Trane," whose whole sound and vibe feel like some newly discovered lost recording from the sessions that produced Impressions (Impulse!, 1963). Speaking of the old masters, Wayne Shorter contemplates life on the brief and squiggly "Supernova." Add the coiling spaciousness of "Basquiat" to the mix and a sure best-of-2023 emerges right before our ears and eyes.
Amerikkan Skin; New Mornings; Phoenix; Mercy; Jubilation; Peace Is A Haiku Song; Blast; Moods; Rebirth; Trane; Supernova; Basquiat; Amerikkan Skin radio edit.
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