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Album Review

Malachi Thompson and Africa Brass “Blue Jazz” [Delmark]

Thurston Hunger   12/3/2003   CD, Format, Jazz

Malachi Thompson is 30 years down the AACM/Chicago
railroad tracks. This album kicks off with an “And the
Grammy goes to…” solid but glossy vibe. But along
comes “Genesis/Rebirth” the closer to Thompson’s Black
Metropolis Suite. The sweet toe-tappin’ evaporates,
and a heart-stoppin’ composition rises like a new sun
in an old sky. Slight flamenco flares arc off Harrison
Bankhead’s bass; the Africa Brass octet which earlier
were turning on dimes, polishing the bop now construct
a slow monolith for Steve Berry to ponder over…until
there’s these crazy feudal/futuristic fanfare. Then
saxist Ari Brown gets a chance to wail on this triumph
of a track. That heaviness keeps a rolling into the
thick bluesy Louis Armstrong triptych tribute. Dee
Alexander starts that on the dark side of the moan,
it then jumps a train and ends as a playful talking
blues against Berry and Brown, now on clarinet. Read
the booklet’s understory arguing against divisions of
blues versus jazz in words, the best argument is the
music… Ends up in fun at the “Mudhole.”

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