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ALBUM REVIEW : Somber Sounds of 'Malcolm X'

July 18, 1993|ZAN STEWART


"The Malcolm X Jazz Suite"


* * 1/2

Do tunes taken from a movie score serve as a solid basis for a thematic quintet album? Not always, as trumpeter-composer Blanchard's latest project illustrates.

These 11 selections, drawn from the leader's soundtrack to Spike Lee's "Malcolm X," are either brooding and dark (such as "The Opening") or spritely yet edgy (like the brisk "Theme for Elijah" and "The Nation"). This compositional flavor makes sense, given the film's subject matter, but the almost monochromatic tone and closed-in feeling of these tunes doesn't make a listener readily eager to hear them again.

The album's somber aspect leads to improvisational situations that do not encourage warm, lyrical statements from any of the major soloists--Blanchard, tenor saxophonist Sam Newsome and pianist Brian Bath, all first-class musicians.

The leader's sound is broad and gutsy, and he plays with a sparkling precision and flow. And while he manages to sing through his horn on the lovely "Theme for Betty," the slow and evocative "Theme at Peace" and the biting blues "Malcolm Makes Hajj," there's a shortage here of memorable moments.

New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four stars (excellent).

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