Ernest Dawkins: Afro Straight (2013)
Ernest Dawkins is a multifaceted giant of the saxophone. He was part of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), a groove into which he perfectly fit, blowing fresh winds of change into the comfort zone of improvisation. The sum of his parts included commissioned works for the Black Metropolis Research Consortium and the Banliues Bleues Festival. He moves into another compact area this time, playing eight standards and two originals, and once again invests his individualism into the compositions.
This CD was recorded as a tribute to some of the great saxophonists of modern music including John Coltrane, whose "Mr. PC" kicks off this entertaining record. Corey Wilkes lights up the groove on trumpet, essaying a lithe tempo that he burnishes with cutting phrases riding high on the melody. Dawkins strides in like a colossus, urging the mood on with a synergy that tantalizes. Willerm Delisfort is a fount of ideas that he punctuates with some sturdy chords. The collective impact is completed by drummer Isaiah Spencer and conga player Greg Carmouche, who add vibrancy to the dynamics.
The blues churn of the Hammond B3 from Ben Paterson heralds the mood for "God Bless the Child." Dawkins injects a soul full of emotion as he winds his way through the melody, casting each note in heartwarming glow. His controlled performance is magisterial.
"Old Man Blues," a Dawkins composition, is a slow churner played in tandem by Dawkins and Wilkes before the saxophonist breaks loose to raise his voice in yearning cry that opens the contours of the tune. Wilkes fathoms his own path, punching in to add muscle. The ebb-and-flow is seen to advantage on the prancing runs of Delisfort and the cool vocals of Dawkins.
The title tune features hard-on percussion from Ruben Alvarez and Greg Penn that is quite in contrast to the rest of the music. This is a surprise element in the mix but it also shows that African rhythms sit in well with jazz and improvisation and can be an integral part of the music.
Dawkins the adventurer certainly gets the joint jumping.
Track Listing: Mr. PC; United; Afro Straight; Central Park West; Woody ‘N You; Softly As A Morning Sunrise; God Bless the Child; Footprints; Old Man Blues; Juju.
Personnel: Ernest Dawkins: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, percussion; Corey Wilkes; trumpet; Willerm Delisfort: piano; Junius Paul: bass; Isaiah Spencer: drums; Ruben Alvarez: congas, bongos, chimes, shaker; Greg Carmouche: congas; Greg Penn: congas; Ben Paterson: Hammond B3 organ.