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Album Review

It's all there at the very beginning, thanks to Kidd Jordan, New Orleans' septuagenarian saxophonist, teacher, and leader; drummer Hamid Drake, who, despite leaving the Crescent City decades ago, still understands second-line rhythms; and William Parker, bassist extraordinaire, who plays a startling array of singing bowls, gongs, and even the talking drum on this session. In the 56 seconds that are "Peppermint Falls," the album's opener, all the elements are there, up front, and waiting to peel the layers off the onion of sound. Jordan swings in everything he does, whether it's the lonesome blues singing at the commencement of "Forever" or the startling intensity of "Unity Call." It's about song and sound, the notion of singing through the horn, expressing what the Indian, North African, and Congo shamans have been singing about for centuries. Certainly this is jazz; it lives in a post-Coltrane aesthetic — the one of discovery, not imitation. The bowed bass beginnings of "Living Peace" suggest, from the relative calm and quiet of the first two tracks, that the edges will become a noticeable present tense in this music. But there are no edges, despite the moan-song of the horn, the bowing and the skeletal inverted notion of time that Drake stretches to its breaking point. What breaks are the defined notions of the pianoless jazz trio. This is a triangle where texture, balance, and color become the points at which sound itself can be expressed without distraction or notional individual identity struggles. This is music that just is, as jazz, as blues, as folk music. The culmination of the trio's art is in the album's final cut, "Last of the Chicken Wings." Never has out jazz sounded so recreational. The percussion work by both sidemen is stunning, carrying a series of Yoruba rhythmic inventions into the joy of the moment. When Jordan gets into his Ornette thang, playing the same catchy phrase over and over again as the percussion gets louder and more insistent, it's an expression of joy. And that's what Palm of Soul is, an expression of spirit joy, one that is rooted in the breakdown of time as a construct, and jazz as an independent form. In fact, if this trio proves anything on this date, it is that jazz is the music that carries within it — or at least can and should — all the musics of the world. Brilliant.

Biography

Born: 1955 in Monroe, LA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

By the close of the 1990s, Hamid Drake was widely regarded as one of the best percussionists in improvised music. Incorporating Afro-Cuban, Indian, and African percussion instruments and influence, in addition to using the standard trap set, Drake has collaborated extensively with top free jazz improvisers Peter Brotzmann, Fred Anderson, and Ken Vandermark, among others. Drake was born in Monroe, LA, in 1955, and later moved to Chicago with his family. He ended up taking drum lessons with Fred Anderson's...
Full Bio
Palm of Soul, Hamid Drake
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