165

Ernest Dawkins' New Horizons Ensemble: The Prairie Prophet

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
Ernest Dawkins' New Horizons Ensemble: The Prairie Prophet Since 1978, saxophonist Ernest Dawkins has led his flagship band, The New Horizons Ensemble, through myriad jazz traditions, from blues, swing and funk to post-bop, avant-garde and beyond. The Prairie Prophet, their fifth album on Delmark, is dedicated to one of Chicago's most venerated scene leaders, the late tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson, a founding member of the AACM and proprietor of The Velvet Lounge. Exuding an air of celebratory reverence, the session includes homages to spiritual leaders, fellow artistic innovators and those embroiled in global conflict.

The ensemble has undergone considerable personnel changes since their last long-player, 2006's The Messenger: Live at the Original Velvet Lounge (Delmark). Now a brass-heavy septet, young firebrand trumpeters Marquis Hill and Shaun Johnson serve on the front-line alongside Dawkins and his longstanding associate, trombonist Steve Berry. The elastic rhythm section is composed of new bassist Junius Paul, veteran drummer Isaiah Spencer and part-time New Horizons' guitarist Jeff Parker, who returns to contribute his incomparable cubist fretwork.

Currently serving as Chairman of the AACM, Dawkins embraces the association's credo, "Great Black Music, Ancient To The Future" wholeheartedly, drawing from highbrow concepts like the 12 tone row foundation of "Mal-Lester," as readily as primal aspects such as the hypnotic Middle Eastern modes of "Mesopotamia." Espousing the AACM's collaborative ideology, Dawkins insures each of his sidemen are given equal space for self expression, spotlighting their singular contributions as frequently as his own acerbic alto torrents and burnished tenor ruminations.

The ensemble's committed performances lend Dawkins' anthem-like tributes a rousing sensibility from the first note of the lilting opener "Hymn For A Hip King," a gospel-flavored jazz waltz dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Stirred by a propulsive Africanized groove, "Mal-Lester" evokes the ebullient spirit of late Art Ensemble Of Chicago legends Malachi Favors and Lester Bowie with a string of celebratory solos. "Shades Of The Prairie Prophet" careens with impetuous abandon inspired by Anderson's renowned angularity, a concept pushed even further on the thorny free bop of "Sketches," which explodes in a bristling furor of archetypal AACM-influenced expressionism. Juxtaposing Jazz Messenger-styled swing with quotes from the World War I tune "Over There" and the 19th Century folk song "The Old Gray Mare," Dawkins pulls no punches on the set closing diatribe "Baghdad Blues," invoking revolutionary forefathers like Charles Mingus and Max Roach with timeless anti-war sentiments.

For over three decades Dawkins' New Horizons Ensemble has helped foster the creative legacy initiated by Anderson and his Windy City brethren. Balancing inside and outside traditions with the same charismatic assurance as the album's dedicatee, The Prairie Prophet is a fitting tribute to a true hero of Chicago's avant-garde.


Track Listing: Hymn For A Hip King; Sketches; Balladesque; Mal-Lester; Shades Of The Prairie Prophet; Mesopotamia; Baghdad Boogie.

Personnel: Ernest Dawkins: alto and tenor saxophone, percussion, vocals (2, 7); Marquis Hill: flugelhorn (1), trumpet (2, 3, 7); Shaun Johnson: trumpet (1, 2, 4); Steve Berry: trombone; Jeff Parker: guitar; Junius Paul: bass; Isaiah Spencer: drums.

Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Delmark Records


Shop

More Articles

Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read The MUH Trio – Prague After Dark CD/LP/Track Review The MUH Trio – Prague After Dark
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Les Deux Versants Se Regardent CD/LP/Track Review Les Deux Versants Se Regardent
by John Sharpe
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Molto Bene CD/LP/Track Review Molto Bene
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Fellowship CD/LP/Track Review Fellowship
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 22, 2017
Read E.S.T. Symphony CD/LP/Track Review E.S.T. Symphony
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 22, 2017
Read "Punch" CD/LP/Track Review Punch
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 29, 2016
Read "Intenso!" CD/LP/Track Review Intenso!
by Jack Bowers
Published: November 7, 2016
Read "Here’s to You..." CD/LP/Track Review Here’s to You...
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: November 9, 2016
Read "Blooming Tall Phlox" CD/LP/Track Review Blooming Tall Phlox
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 23, 2017
Read "Negative Spaces" CD/LP/Track Review Negative Spaces
by Dave Wayne
Published: November 20, 2016
Read "Of Sound Mind" CD/LP/Track Review Of Sound Mind
by Budd Kopman
Published: September 30, 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!