"The overwhelming impression I took from this most interesting recording was one of mellow warmth. A fine, inspiring release."
Michael Tucker, Jazz Journal, June 1989
But the essentials were there. Charles Moffett's crisply articulated drumming, soft shoe pitter-pat circling in a ring dance inside your head, pivoting on the earth-bow throb of Fred Hopkins' bass. Ahmed Abdullah's trumpet, the clean bright call of shining brass echoing the proud lineage of Lee Morgan, Clifford Brown, Fats Navarro, but singing of today. The gruffer linearity of the tenor, played by Chico Freeman at those early gigs, then the passionate but deliberately paced talespinning of David S. Ware. A band chanting the ancient wisdom of African diaspora with the immediacy of today's media-saturated, computer-linked global dialogue.
If you hear the horns as voices, and the bass and drums as impulse and motion, then Masujaa's electric guitar is the spark that jumps from synapse to synapse, resonating the voices and the motive rhythms, facilitating dialogue and dance. It's the most recent addition to a music that's been germinating awhile now, and it has brought further clarification, a sense that each element has found its proper place. The music of the Solomonic Quintet is still volatile, still ripe with discovery, but there is also a sense of setting, a certain hard-won sufficiency. The musicians and the music sing as one voice now. One voice with many stories to tell, many points of view.
Each of these musicians has tempered his training and inclinations and God-given talent in working situations where one is consistently called on to play at or beyond one's peak capacity, where the impulse to transcend becomes internalized, if not routine. Ahmed Abdullah's trumpet has been heard in big bands and small groups led by some of the most celebrated and discerning composer-players on the New York scene. Most recently, he has been a motivating force in The Group, a cooperative unit that also includes Marion Brown, Sirone and Andrew Cyrille. But he has been heard to best advantage with his own bands, which have consistently been characterized by balance, directness, and sense of purpose; the present Solomonic Quintet brings his gifts as a composer and improviser into even sharper focus.
David Ware, playing both tenor and stritch in this context, is a former member of the ensembles of Andrew Cyrille, Milford Graves and Cecil Taylor. Masujaa, notable for the breadth of his musical interest, recorded with Ahmed Abdullah in the early 70s on a section of Douglas Records' Wildflower Series. He has recorded more recently with Ronald Shannon Jackson's The Decoding Society, and currently plays with his own group, X Factor. Fred Hopkins has appeared on more than 60 recordings, always bringing warmth and wit to a unique style of playing bass, which is both percussive and richly melodic. This, delivered with an extraordinary exactness of timing, can be heard to great advantage here on El Canto.
Charles Moffett grew to musical maturity in Fort Worth, Texas, where he played in teenage bands alongside future giants such as Ornette Coleman, Dewey Redman, and Prince Lasha. Some years later, he helped Coleman and bassist David Izenson redefine the most basic notions of group playing, in a trio documented most enduringly on the two Blue Note LP's "Live at the Golden Circle," recorded in Stockholm. Any account of his subsequent contributions would have to include the raising of a very musical family that includes his son Charnett, now a recording artist in his own right. Charles Moffett is the creator of a unique approach to polyrhythmic percussion, combining dexterity, precision, and heart. Each part of the drum kit has its own role to play in a shifting, mercurial, light-handed, sure-footed dialogue of rhythms. At the same time, all the parts cohere, so that Moffett's drumming speaks with brisk, sharply-defined authority.
The Solomonic Quintet manages to be more than the sum of its very considerable parts, and that in itself is no small achievement. But the most impressive thing about this music is the way it feels. The depth-of-field you find in the blues is wedded to the improvisational freedoms of jazz and the plainspeaking-but-highstepping immediacy of African and Caribbean rhythms and song forms, all without a hint or artifice or strain. The music is sinewy, substantial, easy to listen to and hard to forget. It satisfies on every level, and that is rare indeed.
1. African Songbird 07:08
2. Gypsy Lady 05:00
3. The Search 06:52
4. Canto II 04:57
5. Khaluma 07:19
6. The Dance We Do 07:29
7. Wishbone Suite 05:34
8. The Dance We Do (Take 1) 08:42
Ahmed Abdullah trumpet, fluegelhorn, voice
David S. Ware tenor saxophone, stritch
Masuhjaa el. guitar
Fred Hopkins bass
Charles Moffett drums