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Jazz Review

'Army' Creates Spirited Dialogue Between Jazz, Poetry

April 13, 1998|BILL KOHLHAASE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It was all about dialogue when poet Kamau Daaood teamed with a nine-piece jazz ensemble at the Vision Theatre in Leimert Park on Saturday night: dialogue between words and music, between instruments and voice, between words spoken and sung, between audience and performers. And each component served to intensify the other during this unusually spirited coming together.

Billed as "An Army of Healers," the group included flutist James Newton, pianist Nate Morgan, saxophonist Michael Session, bassist Trevor Ware and a trio of percussionists who kept up an ongoing exchange. Most of the musicians and material were from Daaood's CD "Leimert Park," a tribute to the Crenshaw area arts district where he is a cultural activist.

Appropriately, Daaood's poems most often had musical themes. But his musings on Billie Holiday, Lester Young, John Coltrane and Art Blakey broadened into complaints on wider social and moral issues, often with the band sharing in his feelings of outrage or wonder. He sees the world with its "oceans of crack vials" clearly, but despite the tragedy and inequity around him, Daaood finds a message of hope. He is "caught between the roaches and stars."

The musicians colored the verses with swing, impressionistic passages and improvisational rants of their own. On Daaood's "Tears," Morgan, Newton and Session swirled around a dense percussive center while Daaood asked, "Why is the sweat of the heart invisible?"

Flutist Newton reflected Daaood's emotion with improvisations that were marvels of technique and feeling. He colored his tone with vocalizations that could add a layer of shrill rage or delicate subtlety to his sound. Pianist Morgan worked with McCoy Tyner-inspired feeling, and guest pianist Horace Tapscott played with rumbling dissonance and an amazing volume of sound on his own "The Dark Tree."

By the time Daaood brought gospel-fired vocalist Dwight Trible out to contrast with his rhythmic litanies, the crowd of several hundred had caught the ensemble's fervor and was on its feet, clapping and shouting encouragement.

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