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Jean-Paul Bourelly: Trance Atlantic (Boom Bop II)

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Jean-Paul Bourelly’s new CD, Trance Atlantic (Boom Bop II), extends and solidifies the heavy funk and electronic concept of the excellent 1999 release Boom Bop. Trance Atlantic ’s central musical idea involves a strong groove that often overlays the ostensible frontline of lead guitar, cornet, sax, or trombone. The music partakes of the current vocabulary of dance music, electronica, trip hop, or whatever, but Bourelly’s take on the genre doesn’t sound sampled, canned or repetitive. Instead, he creates a constantly shifting foreground of elastic drum, bass and synthesizer low end, and every one of the thirteen tracks offers fresh discoveries within this thematically coherent context.

Surrounded by the likes of Olu Dara, Henry Threadgill, Vincent Henry and Joseph Bowie, Bourelly has to clear space for his guitar work, but he manages, delivering track after track of inventive improvisations. Bourelly’s guitar work is impeccable. He often plays lines alternating between soulful legato blues lines with flurries of explosive phrases. His tone is raw rock and roll and he’s not afraid of a full tube overdrive or a wah-wah. Though he has recently begun playing a semi-hollow bodied Framus guitar, his sound isn’t that different from the work he assayed on his great Hendrix tribute CD.

The real star of the record may actually be the stellar rhythm section which includes not only jazz stalwarts Reggie Workman and Dennis Chambers but also Melvin Gibbs, bassist with the Henry Rollins band, and Jean-Paul’s brother Carl, who was the house keyboard player for Def Jam. One downside is that Dara, Henry, and Threadgill receive relatively little playing time. The project also revives Bourelly’s work with griot Abdourahmane Diop, the Berlin-based Senegalese vocalist. Diop’s deep, impassioned vocals, delivered with a throaty shout carry a lot of conviction, and he sounds great against Bourelly’s curtains of guitar work.

Bourelly was at one time best known for his work with Miles on Amandla, though his long associations with New York downtowners Threadgill, Vernon Reid, Marc Ribot and, especially, Steve Coleman, place his contributions on a parallel track with M-base and the Black Rock Coalition. Still, there’s something looser and funkier about Bourelly’s work. And the fact that he resides in Berlin gives Trance Atlantic ’s appropriation of African roots a kind of Euro twist—the adoption of African polyrhythms doesn’t have the political weight or seriousness of purpose sometimes seen in the work of American jazz ensembles. The music has at least as many nods toward rock as jazz, hip-hop or African music, and there are times one is reminded of Zappa’s legendary ’88 band. Still, Bourelly clears a wide path for himself here, and Trance Atlantic ’s consolidation of many of the influences impinging on jazz succeeds where a lot of others have failed.

This review first appeared in the July-August 2002 issue of All About Jazz: Philadelphia .


Track Listing: 1.Awakening- :26,2. The Spirit Wheel - 10:29,3.Cool Papa N'Diaye - 9:57,4. Fatima-7:11,5.Blowin' Omni-5:04,6.Pluto Lounge- 2:37, 7.Thierno de Conakry-6:14, 8.The Scent of the Healer- :58, 9. Harmofunkalodica -7:07,10.Trance Atlantic-8:07,11.Myth and Diffusion - 1:40,12. Traffic-4:36,13.Freedom Delta - 6:57

Personnel: Jean-Paul Bourelly, guitars and sonic treatments; Carl Bourelly, keyboards and programming; Joseph Bowie, trombone; Will Calhoun, drums, Korg wave drum; Olu Dara, cornet; Dennis Chambers, drums; Vincent Henry, alto and tenor saxophones; Orbert Talamachus, contra boom bass; Abdourahmane Diop, vocals; Melvin Gibbs, electric bass; Henry Threadgill, alto saxophone, flute; Reggie Workman, acoustic bass

Title: Trance Atlantic (Boom Bop II) | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Challenge Records

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