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Album Review

Not since Rufus Harley first appeared with his jazz bagpipes in the early '60s has a jazz album featured such an unlikely lead instrument as Douglas Ewart's Songs of Sunlife: Inside the Didgeridu. Ewart, an AACM member who first discovered the Australian aboriginal instrument in the '60s, designed and built all of the instruments he plays on this album, in keeping with the precepts of traditional didgeridoo players. Accompanied on some tracks by bassist Adam Lane and percussionist Stephen Goldstein, Ewart creates complex harmonics and overtones with the deceptively simple instrument, from the quite literally spine-tingling low-register throb of the three-part "Mud Bath" to the lighthearted, almost vocal "Draghopping." A few songs feature other instruments, like the roar flutes (a native Australian instrument that creates a sound akin to a birdsong) on "Ancestors Flying," but the majority of Songs of Sunlife: Inside the Didgeridu is an impressive overview of what can be done with one of the world's most unique instruments, as well as one of the most delightfully idiosyncratic jazz releases since Rahsaan Roland Kirk's similarly conceptual Natural Black Inventions: Root Strata.

Biography

Born: 1946

Genre: Jazz

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

Douglas Ewart's a solid multi-instrumentalist who's made his biggest contribution as a sideman. His steady, energetic solos on alto sax, flute, bass clarinet and bassoon have been heard in the bands of Fred Anderson, George Lewis, Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton and Chico Freeman. A Kingston, Jamaica native, Ewart moved to Chicago in 1963. He joined the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians in 1967, and studied theory and performance with Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman. He's...
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Songs of Sunlife, Douglas Ewart
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