With the release of Trance-Atlantic (Boom Bop II), Jean-Paul Bourelly again shows us all that he is not only today’s guitar-playing acid-funk archetype, but a bold conceptualist bravely and pointedly mixing disparate elements to create a genre all his own. With the Boom-Bops, Jean-Paul, in his own words, finds out, “what it would be like if African poetry could exist in a constantly changing harmonic world with a more playable rhythmic context and not always a repetitive harmonic thing going on” underneath it. Bourelly is one of our finest rhythmitists as well, coming, early on, under the tutelage of one Master Elvin Jones and being there at the very beginnings of what has become known as M-Base. But understanding the final product may have more to do with Jean-Paul’s follow-up to the previous description, to wit: “Whether I got to the vision or not is unimportant. What's more important is that it was a catalyst for ideas- and that's the gas for the engine to run.”
Boom-Bop I did well by Bourelly, landing him in some of last year’s “best-ofs”, most notably the well-promulgated JazzTimes list, at number 36. Suffice to say this one should land him even higher. As on BBI , the baritone of Senegalese Griot Abdourahmane Diop is featured prominently on a few (four)tunes that tie the concept together, making it whole, while the remainder of the more than 70 minutes of this thrilling concoction shows us that it’s Bourelly himself that’s the project’s other Griot. Just as the vocal Griot is the living book, telling the collective memories of the people in musical form, so Bourelly embodies and conveys, through his fingers and his axe, the history of all that is acid–funk, from Sharrock to Cosey to Jimi to Blood through Pfunk to right now and no question- into the future.
Some more modernly influenced, jungle-type, beats are heard here, and they are provided by no less than perennial kitmasters Dennis Chambers and Will Calhoun. Check out the (instrumental) “Pluto Lounge” into (vocal) “Thierno de Conakry” or “Harmofunkalodica” for what Dennis can do with these beats and “Fatima” and “Blowin’ Omni” for some new “Jungle Funk” from Will. Archie Shepp made a bold appearance on BB I, but is not along for this ride. Henry Threadgill remains a holdover, with new section-mates Olu Dara on cornet , Joe Bowie on trombone and Vincent Henry on alto (talk about an all-star cast-look at this personnel! Bourelly has worked with some heavy cats-now they’re working with him!) Threadgill solos effervescently over Dara and Bowie on “Blowin Omni” , which, as implied by the title, features these icons of organized scatteration blowin’ kind of differently but all at once, and somehow miraculously creating a coalescing whole. Amusing that the very next tune features Vincent Henry blowing over the rest acting as one, a futuristic, avant, but tight section. The four tracks from “Fatima” through “Thierno” move seamlessly through one another, emphasizing the contributions of the hornmen while not crowding out any of the remaining cast.
“The Spirit Wheel” features the “Boom” in the Bop, the huge, fuzzed out sound achieved on electrified acoustic bass by one Mr. Orbert “Big Royale” Talamachus- they call it contra-boom bass. His contribution to the soundscape on both Boom Bop records is invaluable, but has been overlooked in mention of the recordings in the press thusfar. I’ve heard some attempts at this type of sound before, but none achieved so effectively, and certainly none that fit so well into the particular sonic landscape and intent of the pieces (Reggie Workman is also on hand to provide his own kind of Boom on “Pluto Lounge”). On “...Wheel” we get a drum’n’contraboombass-style rhythm track with a horn section part that sways way to each side setting up a long solo section for Bourelly. As he spins out line after line of thick, aggressive lines just dripping with white-hot acid funk, he simultaneously passes down the wisdom of the masters of the genre while synthesizing the path to its future.
“Cool Papa N'Diaye” lets us all float above the voice of Diop, which is rooted firmly below in a stalwartly voiced parable of a humanitarian African Prince. Bourelly provides floating shards of psychedelia throughout , while Olu Dara snatches the legend’s spirit in his cornet, simultaneously invoking spirits of trumpet-playing legends that have gone before him.
Did I mention the record is subtitled Boom Bop II? Did I forget to stress that there is an overall trance-like effect to the record and that it emphasizes musical elements that originate from across America’s Atlantic ? There is a lot going on in the music, a concentrated potion of harmony, stemming perhaps from Bourelly’s exploration of what he calls bi/tri and quad tonal harmonies, or suggesting two or more different harmonies within the moment. The bass notes and comping (which can be single-note) may actually be set intervals away from the written harmony as well, while shying away from conventional, bigger block-type chord configurations.
“Harmofunkalodica” will show you, although the straighter backbeat is closer to an American “new bag”, while “Traffic” is a wicked African groove featuring a wonderfully syncopated bouncing groove by Talamachus, this time with the “Boom” turned to the “off” position. The rhythm track of the title cut, again, emphasizes the drum’n’bass side of trance. Bourelly “sings” along with Diop in powerful style on this one, combining later with Chambers in the solo section to literally play the tune into its inspiring oblivion. Ironic that the translation of Diop’s lyric speaks of the courage and energy it takes to forego the “easier”, pitfall-laden path of the uninspired. The same message will be conveyed even more richly non-verbally, to anyone who truly listens to Bourelly’s guitar, hears his songs and remains open to his concept.
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: Vincent Henry-Sax (Alto), Sax (Tenor) [2,3,6,7,12],Jean-Paul Bourelly-Guitar, Editing, Mixing, Sonic Treatments, Dennis Chambers-Drums [2,3,6,7, 9,12],Olu Dara-Cornet [2-7],Carl Bourelly-Keyboards, Programming, Mixing, Joseph Bowie-Trombone [2,3,5,6,7],Will Calhoun- Drums, Drum Machine [4,5,10,13],Melvin Gibbs-Bass (Electric)[10,13]
Marcus Persiani-Horn Arrangements,Reggie Workman-Bass (Acoustic)[4,6]
Henry Threadgill-Flute, Sax (Alto)[2,3,5,6,7],Abdourahmane Diop- Vocals, Orbert