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Barry Cleveland: Volcano

AAJ Staff By

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When the goddess speaks, she speaks in rhythm, as Barry Cleveland tells us on his latest release, Volcano. Based on his intuitive take of the various spiritual paths that use percussion to convey the spirit of the divine feminine, Cleveland and his cohorts open the door to a different way to perceive the many energies of the world.

While the labels "World Music" and "New Age" could be applied to Cleveland's African and Afro-Haitian effort, there is much here to appeal to the straight-ahead jazz listener. His expert voicings on electric guitar, also plied with Chinese bows and bowhammers, give a relaxed Western bebop counterpoint to the ethnic rhythms. But that's not all. He's got a range that's unmistakable: he can drive, make you beg for it, whisper it in your ear. His percussionist, Michael Pluznick, lends a truly magical energy to the piece. Like the storytellers of the clan, he tells a cadenced tale here. Cleveland notes that he purposely avoided learning the characteristics of each goddess as represented by each rhythm and encouraged his collaborators to do the same, so as to only improvise from pure intuition. He discovered that their devolved intention was remarkably similar to the native qualities of each goddess. This comes as no surprise; one can hear it in the music.

Don't expect to sit down with a book for a quiet hour while listening to the many colors revealed by this diverse ensemble. This one makes you want to move; you can't help it. "Ophidian Waves" captures the undulating energies of its namesake, and "Dervish Circles" visualizes the circular flowing robes of the sacred dancer. But while the dark must be in balance with the light to make a story whole in the telling, "Dark Energy," the last song in the piece, would be better placed toward the middle of story to allow space for resolution. Its chaotic rhythm and minor key provide for an abrupt ending. But that is only a minor quibble regarding pacing on a gracefully crafted work that speaks of an "in the moment"? expressiveness.

Cleveland has succeeded in creating a story here that reacquaints the listener with a part of themselves that they may have forgotten, but then come to realize—like the volcano, which only needed fire to remember its primal flows.

Track Listing: Makanda, Tongue of Fire, Secret Prescriptions of the Bedroom, Black Diamond Express, Ophidian Waves, Obsidian Night, Volcano, Rhumbatism, Dervish Circles, Dark Energy

Personnel: Barry Cleveland, electric and acoustic guitar, Ebowed, bowed and bowhammered guitar, Vocalizer, synth bass, pulse guitar, synthesizer; Michael Pluznick, percussion; Michael Manring, electric bass, Ebowed bass; Norbert Stachel, EWI, contrabass clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano sax, tenor sax, and sopranino sax; Michael Masley, reed slide, Lokota slide, bowhammer cymbalon; Arthur Hull and Chris Walker, bells and percussion; Lygia Ferra and Maxwell Taylor, vocals.

Title: Volcano | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Supersaturated Records


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