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Album Review

Although Curlew is customarily associated with the hip downtown NYC Knitting Factory scene, leader George Cartwright is a native Mississippian, and his compositions have always had a funky R&B feel to them. The band is clearly at the top of their game on this CD, playing inside and outside (and inside out), using Cartwright's catchy, riff-based tunes as the impetus for impressive flights of fancy, sailing into the free improv ozone while somehow simultaneously keeping at least one foot in the good earth. Over the years, Cartwright himself has become a formidable saxophonist, invoking Cannonball Adderley's soulful bop lyricism one moment, and Albert Ayler's wide, impassioned vibrato the next. He is also economical and typically leaves the listener wanting more, rather than spilling his guts on every solo. The other standout on this CD is longtime Cartwright associate Davey Williams, who has developed into one of the most original guitar shredders around. Williams has the ability to sound totally out of control while still making ragged and righteous musical sense. This incarnation of the band is anchored by Ann Rupel's fine bass work and Samm Bennett's drums, and supplemented by second guitarist Chris Cochrane and some additional ensemble contributions by baritone and tenor saxophonist Jim Spake. Paradise has the manic energy of the earlier Live in Berlin, and the discipline of the previous studio recording Bee. It's a delight from start to finish.


Formed: 1979

Genre: Rock

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

Curlew were formed in 1979 by George Cartwright, who has served as the group's leader, saxophonist, and main composer for nearly three decades. Although Curlew have been viewed as pioneers of New York City's so-called "downtown scene," Cartwright was born in Mississippi and has consistently brought a roadhouse R&B swagger -- not to mention the influence of early hero Ornette Coleman -- to the band's sound. Throughout the '80s and '90s, Curlew served as something of an incubator and showcase for N.Y.C....
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Paradise, Curlew
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