The brainchild of jazzmen David Chevan and Warren Byrd, the Connecticut-based Afro-Semitic Experience has been exploring the sounds of multi-ethnic fusion jazz for several years now.
By BEN JACOBSONThe Afro-Semitic Experience
Plea for Peace
(Reckless DC Music)
The brainchild of jazzmen David Chevan and Warren Byrd, the Connecticut-based Afro-Semitic Experience has been exploring the sounds of multi-ethnic fusion jazz for several years now. The duo has collaborated on a few recordings - most notably Chevan's solo The Days of Awe - but this is its first official release as a band.
These are skilled American jazzmen, each bringing a whole lot of flavors to the table, including Puerto Rican and Cuban rhythms, gospel melodies and scales, Jewish liturgy and cantorial stylings, classic jazz structures and West African folk chants.
The opening "On Time God" explores happy New Orleans jazz, and "Forgive Us" features Latin beats with piano jammed on top. "Ocho Kandelikas" features an intentionally lazy metre, which ironically showcases the enthusiasm of the ensemble. The traditional melody for "Sheyiboneh Beis Hamikdash" sports a vibey Moog solo. An interesting listen, especially for jazzheads.
A Million Voices
The bassist for Reva L'Sheva, Adam Wexler co-writes much of his band's material and appears live somewhat regularly with acts like Eden Miqedem. An official solo side project seems inevitable if belated.
Wexler's cousin, American alternative rock singer/songwriter Peter Himmelman, is married to a daughter of Bob Dylan, so in a sense, Wexler is Dylan's family relation. Both Dylan and Wexler grew up in Minnesota, and both have come a long way since. Wexler's imprecise and laid-back vocal style can be compared to Dylan's, and many of the arrangements on this disc resemble Dylan's famous early Sixties work.
The Dylan comparisons end there, however. Wexler's success as a musician has come thanks to his indisputably impressive chops as a bass player - not because of any reputation as a vocalist or composer. Wexler has acted as a session man for Frank Sinatra and The Four Seasons, and he performed regularly with The Diaspora Yeshiva Band back in the day. For some reason, though, the emphasis of A Million Voices is not on bass performance.
The title track, for example, consists of Wexler singing along with an acoustic guitar and nothing else, while the creative "Song for Dora" sounds like a lost Burt Bacharach instrumental. Elsewhere, the happy "Help and Shield" ends with a flute sound following the falling "lah-dadah" lead vocal line. "Very Strong" is a love song with a cool, jazzy clunk-beat. On "Holy of Holies," Wexler borrows lyrics from the traditional daily supplication for forgiveness.
The melodies and verses heard throughout Voices are pleasant and simple, so listening to this disc is enjoyable at points - even if we do expect more from a master bass player.
Ben Jacobson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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