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Jafar Barron: The Free-Bop Movement

Joel Roberts By

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Philadelphia trumpeter Jafar Barron offers an impressively cohesive mix of bebop, hip hop and spoken word on his debut album on Q Records. But jazz purists (at least those with open ears) need not fear - this is a jazz album, albeit one that draws on both rap and electronics.

Barron's approach most directly paralells that of Steve Coleman's M-Base Collective and, to a lesser extent Ornette Coleman's "free funk." Barron and his colleagues - including brother Farid, a member of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, on the electric Fender Rhodes piano - are serious, well-schooled jazz-funk progressives whose music is infused with and informed by the spirit of hip hop.

Barron, who has played with everyone from Wynton Marsalis to Erykah Badu, leads his sextet through a series of groove-heavy compositions that reference some 50-plus years of jazz history. "Old Happy, Happy Buddha" and "The Buddha Monk Stomp" build on pure bebop structures while "Transit Dance: Dancing Mass Transit" and "In the Realm of Permanence: Where the Souls Be At" come closer to free-form funk, propelled by bassist Michael Boone and drummer Rodney Green's ferocious rhythms. The spoken word segments - poetic interludes and introductions on mostly spiritual and social themes performed by Oskar Castro - seldom distract from the music, which always remains in the forefront.

Credit Barron and company for creating an album of challenging yet accessible 21st century jazz. Well worth checking out.


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