120

Babatunde Lea: Suite Unseen: Summoner of the Ghost

Eric J. Iannelli By

Sign in to view read count
Babatunde Lea: Suite Unseen: Summoner of the Ghost 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 the record store.

Suite Unseen, Lea's fifth outing as leader, kicks off with bassist Geoff Brennan's vamp, a conga roll, and then Glen Pearson's firm piano underscoring, and soon throws itself headfirst into a groove powered by the brawny horn section. Trombonist Steve Turré—a prominent Bay Area musician, like Lea and many other performers here—gets a full workout on his short solo, showing his range from grumbles to squeals before being joined by saxophonist Richard Howell. Titled "Ancestral Stroll" (and the first of the proper "Suite Unseen" tracks), there is nothing either ancient or ambling about this opening number. It comes across as fresh and urgent.

Turré's "Motivation" is a bit quirkier and jerkier, though it features that same fat horn section working in unison. Turré has another fine solo, shifting effortlessly from staccato to smooth lines; Howell goes straight for smooth. Together with Lea they shake up the standard solo protocol a bit, throwing back and forth to one another for the last minute or so. "On the T.L." continues the jaunty mood one last time before Howell's subdued ballad "A Song for Ani." Lea accentuates the track with cymbal splashes and rumblings like distant thunder. "The Bay Area's Afro-Latin Funky Love Shuffle" is a swinging, feel-good track penned by Howell—though it sounds slightly more Big Apple than Bay Area.

"Invocation," a percussion solo, precedes the smoke-and-whisky Turré chart "Inconspicuous," but it more-or-less delineates the overtly African-inspired part of the disc dominated by Lea's own compositions and his unifying thematic thread. Beginning breezily enough, "Suite Unseen: The Unseen" makes a few ominous departures and then builds into a kind of collective ecstasy. The ensuing rendition of James Taylor's "Fire and Rain" runs entirely contrary to this (the "flow" of the disc Lea mentions in the liner notes requires a huge imaginative leap)—a bright, swinging number replete with finger snaps that seems to overlook the latter half of the title. It closes with the group chant, "I've seen fire and I've seen rain" (repeat indefinitely).

"Chants from Home" is similar, with Lea invoking the ocean deity Yemaya by following an old Yoruba chant, slowly segueing into the spiritual refrain "Sometimes I feel like a motherless child," which in turn segues into the succeeding track, "From Home." In the final movement, a George Clinton-style funk jam, Lea literally shouts out across the spiritual divide to family members and musical forerunners, an apt way to close out this lively, inspired (in the strictest sense of the word) disc.


Track Listing: 1. Suite Unseen: Ancestral Stroll (4:42); 2. Motivation (4:43); 3. On the T.L. (5:08); 4. A Song for Ani (6:31); 5. The Bay Area's Afro-Latin Funky Love Shuffle (4:47); 6. Invocation (1:30); 7. Inconspicuous (5:55); 8. Suite Unseen: The Unseen (4:33); 9. Fire and Rain (5:54); 10. Suite Unseen: Spirit of the 'Wood' (5:07); 11. Chants from Home (1:54); 12. Suite Unseen: From Home (4:05); 13. Maeeah's Big Adventure (5:48); 14. Suite Unseen: Summoner of the Ghost (6:36)

Personnel: Babatunde Lea: (drums, percussion, vocals, bala fon); Steve Turré: (trombone, conch shells); Richard Howell: (saxophones, vocals, kalimba); Glen Pearson: (piano); Geoff Brennan (bass); Ron Belcher (bass tr.3), 'Bujo' Kevin Jones: (percussion)

Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Motéma Music | Style: Latin/World


Shop

More Articles

Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "All My Treasures" CD/LP/Track Review All My Treasures
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: November 20, 2016
Read "Colors for the Masters" CD/LP/Track Review Colors for the Masters
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: August 6, 2016
Read "Sanguinaria (Hopeful Songs)" CD/LP/Track Review Sanguinaria (Hopeful Songs)
by Roger Farbey
Published: January 24, 2017
Read "Goin' Your Way" CD/LP/Track Review Goin' Your Way
by Doug Collette
Published: November 6, 2016
Read "Old Door Phantoms" CD/LP/Track Review Old Door Phantoms
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 5, 2016
Read "Panthalassa: The Music Of Miles Davis 1969-1974" CD/LP/Track Review Panthalassa: The Music Of Miles Davis 1969-1974
by Sacha O'Grady
Published: December 23, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!