168

Bluiett/Jackson/El'Zabar: The Calling

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
Bluiett/Jackson/El'Zabar: The Calling The BJE trio lies comfortably at the intersection between jazz, tribal music, blues, and gospel. In its original form as BJT (with Senegalese percussionist Mor Thiam), this trio defined and occupied a niche. The new reincarnation continues to expand that sound. By distilling modern jazz and consciously returning to the roots of the tradition, these players sidestep the pedantic intellectualism that unfortunately dominates much of today's improvised music.

That's not to say that The Calling is not a serious endeavor. These three players have plenty of experience with the formal improvised music tradition. Bluiett almost singlehandedly raised the baritone saxophone from an instrumental novelty to a full-fledged equal in jazz. His 25 years of experience with the World Saxophone Quartet, along with tenure in baritone saxophone groups from the '70s and '90s, document the power of his conception.

D.D. Jackson rose to prominence with two brilliant piano trio records in the mid-'90s (Peace-Song and Rhythm-Dance), and has since laid down a considerable discography. Newcomer Kahil El'Zabar fits naturally into the drummer's seat and propels the group forward. El'Zabar launched his career in jazz percussion in Chicago in the '70s, and he has emerged as a leading standard-bearer for the cause of the expanded percussion set (with hand drums serving alongside the regular kit, and African rhythmic concepts uniting with the more traditional jazz elements from swing and the blues). Each member of this trio has spent time going "out"—exploring the broadest dimensions of avant garde improvisation.

Enough about that. On The Calling, these three players engage in a spirited conversation that relies upon call-and-response, interlocking rhythms, and the uplifting energy of Black church music. The opener, "Open My Eyes," begins with a catchy baritone melody over a danceable rhythm, then transitions into El'Zabar's majestic vocal tribute to spiritual revelation. Bluiett steps forward, trading gestures with the vocalist. Meanwhile, Jackson keeps up a lilting groove on the organ. "Ask and You Shall Find" documents a lighter and more airy sound: Bluiett plaintively whispers on the wooden flute, while Jackson cries out with some starkly lifelike cries on the keys and El'Zabar maintains dynamic counterpoint on the kalimba. Tribal in the extreme.

The BJE trio goes on to ply blues and funk, with the eruption of the title track into down-n-dirty hoots and hollers. The drummer's amazing flexibility shines here, as he colors the familiar funk beat with West African rhythmic variation. And Jackson's emergence into the foreground underscores his ability to let loose—after playing his usual role as harmonic guardian and protector of the groove. On the aptly named "Odd Pocket," El'Zabar lays out a colorful 7-beat meter for the trio to explore through interactive improvisation.

The appeal of The Calling is primarily visceral and emotive. Its deceptive simplicity underscores the importance of unity, authenticity, and groundedness. Within this context, the recording is a total and complete success.


Track Listing: Open My Eyes; Sai-Wah; When the Elephant Walks; Blues for the People; Wake up and Dream; Ask and You Shall Find; Black Danube (a.k.a. The Calling); We Are; Odd Pocket; Blues Grind.

Personnel: Bluiett: baritone saxophone, wooden flute, contra-alto clarinet; D.D. Jackson: acoustic piano, organ, bass synth, keys; Kahil El'Zabar: drums, percussion, bells, kalimba, and vocals.

Title: The Calling | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Justin Time Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Towards Language CD/LP/Track Review Towards Language
by John Eyles
Published: June 23, 2017
Read The Romeo and Juliet Project CD/LP/Track Review The Romeo and Juliet Project
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 23, 2017
Read Saluting Sgt. Pepper CD/LP/Track Review Saluting Sgt. Pepper
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 23, 2017
Read Crystal Machine CD/LP/Track Review Crystal Machine
by Glenn Astarita
Published: June 23, 2017
Read Saluting Sgt. Pepper CD/LP/Track Review Saluting Sgt. Pepper
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Thick as Thieves CD/LP/Track Review Thick as Thieves
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 22, 2017
Read "All The Dreams" CD/LP/Track Review All The Dreams
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 12, 2016
Read "Equal Crossing" CD/LP/Track Review Equal Crossing
by Eyal Hareuveni
Published: August 10, 2016
Read "Life on the Edge" CD/LP/Track Review Life on the Edge
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 13, 2017
Read "Our Second Set" CD/LP/Track Review Our Second Set
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 23, 2016
Read "Cub(an)ism" CD/LP/Track Review Cub(an)ism
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: June 17, 2017
Read "Free for One" CD/LP/Track Review Free for One
by Budd Kopman
Published: August 15, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.