Thursday, January 28, 2016

Infinite Spirit Quartet - Revisiting Music of the Mwandishi Band (2016)

“Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi band was one of the most innovative and important jazz
creations of the late-'60s early-'70s. But the outspoken proponents of Neo-Trad
conservatism from the '80s on denigrated the reputation of all bands that used electricity
and electronics. So the legacy of Mwandishi like other key period outfits was for a time
eclipsed. With the new millennium all that has come to be reconsidered. Bob Gluck's
You'll Know When You Get There, the excellent recent book on the band, its history and
its importance has done much to restore for good and all Mwandishi's reputation as one
of the high achievements of the period.

Since Bob is a seminal pianist and electronician in his own right, it is fitting that he
express his appreciation in directly musical terms. He has done just that on the album
Infinite Spirit (FMR Records CD398-0915). For the project Bob unites with two key 
Mwandishi members, drummer Jabali Billy Hart and trumpet master Mganga Eddie
Henderson, rounding off the ensemble with the very adept acoustic bassist Christopher
Dean Sullivan.

Wisely the band does not try to duplicate the original arrangements and stylistic
parameters of classic Mwandishi. Even if that were possible what would be the point?
Instead the four adapt some of Mwandishi's best compositions and some original
material, and take the music wherever it will go, relying upon a present-day mode of
being that is free yet centered on the idea of playing off of the thematic impetus of the
numbers. And all that is in the spirit of what Mwandishi did back then anyway, only this
present-day outing features fruitfully extended improvisations in the moment of now as
the artists feel it. We get new interpretations of Hancock's "Sleeping Giant" and "You'll
Know When You Get There," plus Maupin's "Quasar" paired with Gluck's "Sideways,"
Maupin's "Water Torture," and a Sullivan composition, "Spirit Unleashed."
Bob prepared some electronic sound universes that enter into the music effectively and
appropriately at times, which of course recognizes an important element of the original
Mwandishi in the hands of Patrick Gleason. Here we get Bob Gluck's own intriguing
parallels and it adds much to the musical ambiance throughout.

The beauty and originality of this musical offering rests especially upon the lyrically
ruminating creative improvisations. Bob Gluck has his own approach to the music which
echoes Hancock's own harmonic-melodic brilliance but then gives it a spin that is all
Gluck. His piano playing is a high point throughout. Eddie Henderson sounds as
accomplished as ever here, too. He is still the master these many years later and sparks
the group with some of his best work. Christopher Dean Sullivan makes a strong case
for his essential presence in the ensemble with, yes, some ostinatos but also with an
openly free interactive melodic sense that goes perfectly well with the wide-ranging
ideas expressed by his bandmates. Billy Hart, as most everyone knows, remains one of
the outstanding drummers in the music today. His time is a thing of beauty and he uses
cymbals and drums to create real MUSIC as always. He sounds here as ever inventive
and subtle in his special driving ways.

What we have most happily on Infinite Spirit is not a typical tribute album, but a genuine
refashioning of the Mwandishi legacy according to the open-ended vision of the four in
the ever-expanding now of original personal expression and the improvisatory arts as it
has evolved since the time of the classic band. And it is most rewarding to hear this
foursome come up with a music that is an exemplary contemporary outing yet
nonetheless pays homage to another very impactful era without remaining held fast to its

This is a quartet that holds its own as an entity very much itself--and gives us one of the
finest new jazz performances of last year. Thank you all for your continued excellence!
Readers, do not miss Infinite Spirit.” Gregory Applegate Edwards

Bob Gluck (piano, electronics)
Billy Hart (dums)
Eddie Henderson (trumpet)
Christpher Dean Sullivan (bass)

01. Sleeping Giant (feat. Billy Hart, Eddie Henderson & Christopher Dean Sullian) 13:44
02. You'll Know When You Get There (feat. Billy Hart, Eddie Henderson & Christopher Dean Sullian) 17:24
03. Sideways / Quasar (feat. Billy Hart, Eddie Henderson & Christopher Dean Sullian) 10:49
04. Spirit Unleashed (feat. Billy Hart, Eddie Henderson & Christopher Dean Sullian) 10:43
05. Water Torture (feat. Billy Hart, Eddie Henderson & Christopher Dean Sullian) 10:41