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Album Review

For his second effort, creative improvising reed player Oluyemi Thomas has chosen a free-flowing music based on the precepts of Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and the echoes of Africa — a Chi-Congo sound, if you will. The bass clarinet of Oluyemi Thomas is freely able to discourse at length in an overblown harmonic fashion reminiscent of latter-period John Coltrane. This unabashed sovereignty creates more rhythmic opportunities than melodic ones. He sounds like an extension of David Murray, and the difference is the emphasis on building sheets of sound gradually from pianissimo to forte and back again on the longer improvisations. During the 15-minute title track, this development commences in an airy fashion, complemented by the synth work of Kenn Thomas, then drum and percussion accents by Howard Byrdsong graduate into a piano motif by Kenn Thomas, chanting, a modally driven line, then out, all in no time. "Recreated by Fire" is nearly ten minutes long, starting with clipped call-and-response fragments, then again increasing in speed and density. Thomas the pianist is pretty astounding in his ability to shade, collect thoughts, ramble, and deal effusively. The remaining big piece, "The Other Side of Self," features Oluyemi Thomas on the Chinese musette, utilized delicately, as he and keyboardist Thomas work in quiet spiritual servitude, building controlled crescendos and then calming them. Here is where the AACM presence and influence are most prevalent. "Conversation with Yourself" also features the musette in a swirling passionate hard bop mode. The most attractive number, "Life Long Journey," demonstrates Kenn Thomas in a crystalline, minimalist, beautiful direction reminiscent of Keith Jarrett. There are solos for each member, from the swelling acoustic and electric keyboards of the unflappable Kenn Thomas during "Homeward Bound" to Byrdsong's Max Roach polyrhythmic approach on "Byrd Song," the Jaco Pastorius-like electric bass guitar harmonic plucks of Eugene Wilson IV on "Prayer," and Oluyemi Thomas on a spatial bass clarinet for "Silently Speaking." For those who need a change of pace, this fine recording from Oluyemi and Kenn Thomas is well worth seeking out and deeply listening to. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Nigeria, Oluyemi Thomas
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