The Orisha Suite is inspired by some of the Afro-Cuban deitiesor orishasfrom Lucumí religious lore, with the exception of the soulful, funky, danceable and exquisite opening cut, which is dedicated toand inspired bythe daughter of the date's leader. As such, nonetheless, the recording is a sonic interpretation of some of the theological tenets associated with this particular religious phenomenon so richly endowed with musical potential.
Michael Phillip Mossman has had the opportunity to learn from seminal musical practitioners in straight-ahead as well as Hispanic jazz circles, and it shows in everything he does on this compact disc. On "In the Land of Ilé Ifé," resourceful playfulness is revealed through his accessible and melodic writing, in 6/8, displaying some of Paquito D'Rivera's best clarinet playing of late.
Mossman's decision to use Arturo O'Farrill as organist throughout the date adds sonic colorings, textural thickness, and welcome spacingparticularly when the date includes the hyperactive Horacio "El Negro" Hernández on drums, as on "The Moon and the Sea." When joined by other technical percussive virtuosos, often times, one ends up with exhausted ears. Mossman wisely included two of the most important conga players in Latin music history, Carlos "Patato" Valdés and Ray Barretto, to balance out the rhythmic formula. The former is the most melodic player of his instrument in history and the latter is one of its most versatile performers. Both tie up the rhythmic over- and underlay of the music, lending a welcome respite from contemporary styles of conga playing that depart from more traditional licks, much needed in a work that pays homage to time-honored exercises of the human religious imagination. "The Mountain at the Edge of Time," however, might well be the best illustration of a well-heeded conversation between percussive yesteryear sparseness and today's energetic lingoes.
Mossman solos on all compositions in exceptional and varied ways; however, his next date might call for less quantity and more concentrated qualityleaving the audience hungering for more of him. His trombone performance on the mid-tempo gem "The Lepered Lover" calls such a judgment into question nonetheless.
The Orisha Suite has shown that Mossman knows not only how to cast a crew that can communicate and perform together at the level that his music requires, but also how to impersonate his own compositions accordingly as a player with a rich and beautiful tone, fine technique, an inexhaustible well of ideas, and New York street smarts.
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