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The Spirit Music Jamia: Dance of the Infidel

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Album Review

Filling the roles of central artist, composer, and director, Me'Shell Ndegéocello takes a left turn with Dance of the Infidel, a very loose affair that nonetheless flows with a natural grace. It is, for the most part, a jazz album, indicated by a shifting lineup that includes Jack DeJohnette, Oliver Lake, Don Byron, and Kenny Garrett, along with vocal turns from Cassandra Wilson, Lalah Hathaway, and Sabina Sciubba. The album is bound to challenge a good number of Ndegéocello's fans (particularly the ones with limited interest or familiarity with the form), but they needn't feel as if they're in over their heads. Little cracks in the bassist's past work have opened up to be fully explored — it's hardly a 180, with her warm, bobbing bass adaptable to any context. And since the album is split almost evenly between sprawling 12-minute pieces and song-based material, it's liable to please both sides in some measure. Compared to Ndegéocello's past albums, Dance of the Infidel isn't as enveloping or moving (a couple spells are particularly dry, and many will miss not hearing the bassist's vocals), but it's full of bright colors, and not without its pleasures. As always, wondering where she'll take you next is part of the fun. [An import edition was released in 2005.]

Biography

Born: 29 August 1968 in Berlin, Germany

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Although Meshell Ndegeocello scored a few hits early in her career, the bassist, singer, and songwriter later opted to concentrate on more challenging material by exploring the politics of race and sex, among other topics. From her 1993 Maverick label debut through her releases of the 2010s for Naïve, she built a discography of recordings that defied classification through progressive mixtures of jazz, R&B, hip-hop, and rock. Initially held...
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The Spirit Music Jamia: Dance of the Infidel, Meshell Ndegeocello
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