Like America, the ideas are good. And just like the USA, they are lost in translation, from concept to being. Q Morrow's There Are Stars In Brooklyn
combines jazz with Brazilian, Afro-Cuban and Carnatic music. It is the product of a curious mind and an interconnected world, specifically of the United States, where different peoples, cultures, and musics are accessible to the enlightened who seek them out. However, there are post-surgery scars on this splicing of styles, where the ideas meet but don't quite mesh.
The closing "Loose Ends," in particular, serves to create more loose ends than it ties up, shifting from bass line-driven funk to a rapid bebop tempo with the suddenness of a dropping guillotine. And the disjointed rhythms of the title track's ensemble sections dance on the fringes of comprehension: just out of reach, but more maddening than enticing, so that the snatches of rhythms dart away before the body can settle into the grooves.
In places, all the pieces fit, as they do in Morrow's guitar solo on "The Do Now," where all of his influences come together to form a cohesive whole of world musics, jazz, and Hendrix-isms. Elsewhere the awkward rhythms seem to jerk and pull away from each other: not flowing into the next, but emphasizing the divide between them. As on "Not Quite Sure Yet," where the ever-shifting rhythms don't get the opportunity to form a coherent groove, the music shifts from Latin-funk to hip-hop and back in the space of a couple of bars. Just as the mind settles into one rhythm it is replaced by the next. So the end result sounds confused, as if one leg is moving left, the other right, and a third backwards.
"Sueño de Miel" opens with gentle, lullaby-inducing chords that alternate with darker, more dissonant undertones. as if a nightmare is edging its way in, injecting a thrilling hit of suspense into the dreamy soundscape. The higher strings of Morrow's classical guitar play a constant rhythm throughout "Inferno Astral," while the thumb pulls a menacing bass line out of its lower strings. These solo guitar pieces are more coherent in their simplicity than the whirlwind shifts of the other tracks. While their virtuosity cannot be denied, neither can the worth of the ideas, but they are cramped together far too tightly. There is more music in a few bars of There Are Stars In Brooklyn
than there is on the radio. And not all of those bars fit beside one another.
Q Morrow's creativity is astonishing. However, There Are Stars In Brooklyn
suffers from an excess of ideas. It is as if all the world musics he has mastered are struggling to be heard above each other: Cuba gets a bar, and then India gets a beat, and Brazil throws a few notes in. While the future of the world will be built on the exploration of many good ideas, it should also be egalitarian. And Q Morrow's album does not give each of the ideas the proper attention they require to reach their full potential. In that sense, too, it mirrors the USA. So much potential, but not enough time spent on fulfilling it.