Friday, September 19, 2014

Ari Brown, Groove Awakening

Whatever happens to me for the rest of my life I hope I will continue to have the time and circumstances to keep listening to uplifting music like the new one from Ari Brown, Groove Awakening (Delmark 5011). Seasons come and go, one's fortunes may sink or rise, but the sort of real jazz represented by this album transcends time and raises you up.

That may be saying a lot. But after following Ari Brown over the years in various guises, including his long tenure with Kahil El'Zabar's Ritual Trio, it is not saying too much to name Ari Brown as one of Chicago's greatest living tenors.

This album puts him consistently in the spotlight with good grooving tunes and a hip quintet. He responds to the occasion with all the heat and soul you could hope for. He has the right band with Kirk Brown, piano, Yosef Ben Israel, bass, Avreeayl Ra on drums and Dr. Cuz on the congas and percussion. Kirk Brown's piano seconds Ari's front-line testimonials well, and the rhythm team cooks things up to a boil.

Not everybody can throw in some funky stuff and make it as genuine and convincing as the jazzier numbers, but Ari and company do it right, because they embody the soul that must go in there to make it work. So you get that. A funkish reggae version of Trane's "Lonnie's Lament" will drive the point home forcefully if you give that a listen first.

But of course there is much more to hear and dig into. "In A Sentimental Mood" gives you the balladic side, "3bop 4 Mal" (penned by Kirk) gives you a modern jazz bop side. And there are shades in between, like the Latin-groove "Veda's Dance".

Through it all you get the post-Trane Ari in warm, relaxed, natural settings. It's an album that sneaks up on you and konks you on the head in the best way. This is what pleasure can be!

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