December 1997

Chico Freeman
The Emissary
Clarity Recordings

Chico Freeman has crafted a varied disc here, once which explores a number of global and ethnic vistas, most of them original pieces. His accompaniment includes Afro-Cuban and African percussion, acoustic and electric basses and guitars, and vocals-both lead and background. Chico celebrates Mandela with some high life African voicings; then he traverses the desert sands, bass clarinet in tow, on "The Emissary." Next is a detour to the Iberian peninsula with Spanish guitar, soprano sax, and spare percussion reminding one of a Spaghetti Western soundtrack-call it "Sketches of the Pampas."

Chico takes a hard left turn to Jamaica with some delightful tenor sax rub-a-dub; breaks it down to a bass-tenor duet, then veers back to Northern Africa. Despite all this geography, there is a sense of organization at work once one gets in touch with Chico the travel agent. A wildly divergent effort, the ensemble is appropriately dubbed Project Terra Nova and delivers an ultimately rewarding effort.

Originally published in December 1997

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