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Sample Track 1:
"Trabajala" from Roots Before Branches
Sample Track 2:
"Solo dos veces" from Roots Before Branches
Layer 2
Album Mention

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Chicago Reader, Album Mention >>

On Thursday powerful Puerto Rican alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon kicks off a four-night stand at the Jazz Showcase with his terrific quartet. I wrote about the engagement in this week's paper, but I didn't get into what some of Zenon's superb sidemen have been up to recently. I think recent recordings from pianist Luis Perdomo and drummer Henry Cole are just as exciting as Zenon's latest. Universal Mind (RKM) is Perdomo's fourth album under his own name—a Venezuelan native, he moved to New York in 1992—and he's joined here by the heavy-hitting rhythm section of bassist Drew Gress and drummer Jack DeJohnette. His brand of sharp-edged postbop is marked by breathless drive and polyrhythmic fluidity, yet within this kinetic approach he makes deft use of space and employs a touch that can be feather-stroke gentle. The album opens forcefully, with a high-octane spin through Joe Henderson's classic "Tetragon," but most of the album's 11 pieces are Perdomo originals, from the briskly swinging "Rebellious Contemplation" to the wistful, expansive-but-crisp modal piece "Just Before" to the elegantly teetering "Doppio," where he unleashes thrilling, dynamic torrents of sound over a malleable tightrope groove. The highlight is a two-part duet with DeJohnette, where both musicians are at their most free. Below you can check out the second of those segments.Even better is the self-released debut from Henry Cole & the Afrobeat Collective, Roots Before Branches. Cole is also from Puerto Rico, and on this album he portages the Nigerian style invented by Fela Kuti through his homeland as well as his current home, New York. Most of the songs are built on the irresistibly funky, stuttering groove immortalized by the great Tony Allen, but Cole is no purist, and the word "collective" in his band's name is no stretch; the record includes contributions from about 20 players, both in New York and San Juan, and was recorded in both towns. The album expertly juggles diverse ideas and elements: expansive improvisations from horn players Cole works with (including Zenon and David Sanchez), fierce Spanish-language rapping, plenty of Afro-Caribbean rhythms, rumba chants, rock guitar, a classical string quartet, and more. On paper that apparent hodgepodge would make me cringe, but Cole integrates it all masterfully—Roots Before Branches is an energizing, natural-sounding example of the New York melting-pot style. It's hard for any single song from the album to convey its cumulative richness, so bear that in mind when you listen to the track below.  04/11/12 >> go there
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