It would seem that there is no stopping flutist, Mark Weinstein. While the composer and instrumentalist extraordinaire may not have trumped his awe-inspiring expedition into the realm of improvisation, Tales From The Earth (Ota Records, 2009) his album, Timbasa has certainly turned out to be an alchemist's dream. Who would ever have imagined that Miles Davis languorous performance of "Milestones" could be regenerated as an extravagant and masterful Afro-Cuban adventure? And yet, between percussion colorist, Pedrito Martinez and Weinstein that chart has been completely reborn, making even Miles' original literally a thing of the past. As sacrilegious as that might sound, it remains absolutely true.
Beginning with the thunderous report of congas, timbales and batas, accented with splashing cymbals and drums clod-hopping in a mad dance around bass and piano the ensemble awaits the fluttering ululation of Weinstein's concert flute. No sooner does he enter the proceedings, he completely deconstructs the melody with dazzling gymnastics turning Miles' tune into a hypnotic, percussive masterpiece. This he daubs with superb touches of color and harmony giving it an ethereal beauty that is quite incomparable, while the percussioniststhree in alltake the music to a breathtaking crescendo that sucks the proverbial air out of the lungs.
From there on it is all upward. "Timbasa" is another mesmerizing chart, an invitation to party for as long as there is musicsomething that the inner ear wants never to end. Wayne Shorter "Footprints" is equally transformed as the Miles Davis chart. Weinstein retains the mysterious, metaphysical nature of the piece but redecorates all else, especially the harmonic progression, which no longer dances in a predictable linear manner, but is more vertical and otherworldly. Herbie Hancock eternal "Watermelon Man" is also magnificently reborn with a new rhythm bestowed upon that swaggering vendor of the luscious fruit.
But perhaps the greatest transformation of a classic is reserved for Duke Ellington deeply mysterious "Caravan." To begin with, bassist, Panagiotis Andreau vocalizes a new opening sequence somewhere in between a Turkish muezzin calling the faithful to discover the existence of the Divine, while his fingers gallop like a caravanserai of mad nomads every which way that his bass will allow them to roam. Even the body of the piece that normally sways like a mirage in the heat of the desert begins to dance as if fired up by a thousand dervishes.
Such exquisite work adorns every track on the album, including the wonderful piece of musical tapestry that Andreau and Weinstein have woven in "Kavaklari Cubano," a wondrous Mediterranean number that turns bewitching as Weinstein works his magic on flute. In the liner notes it appeared odd that Weinstein would heap such unabashed praise on the musicians who accompanied him on this sojourn. However, by the time the last notes of his deceptively nondescript "Just Another Guajira" it is no wonder that the flutist found this to be his finest accompaniment on record.
Milestones; Timbasa; Footprints; Watermelon Man; A Ernesto; Caravan; Encuentro; Kavaklari Cubano; Just Another Guajira.
Mark Weinstein: concert, alto and bass flute; Axel Tosca Laugart: piano; Panagiotis Andreou: electric bass and vocals; Mauricio Herrera: drums, timbales, guiro; Oguardo Diaz: bongos and batá; Pedrito Martinez: congas, timbales, batá and percussion.
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