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October 1999

World Saxophone Quartet
M'Bizo
Justin Time Records

Ever since the release of 1991's Metamorphosis, the World Saxophone Quartet has found a kindred spirit in Senegalese drummers that has powered three subsequent collaborations. Although none of the later recordings manifest the refreshing spirit of the aforementioned album, the World Cup commissioned M'Bizo comes close.

With its expansive instrumentation, M'Bizo unites WSQ's continued pairings with African drummers and David Murray's Fo Duek Revue's Afro-funk concept. And while Murray's project seemed to drown from overarched ambitions, M'Bizo manages to successfully absorb the multilayers of musical ideas without succumbing to pretensions. Miles Davis' Bitches Brew and Ornette Coleman's Prime Time-era harmolodics meet on the opening "Snapapo," which features a chanting vocal choir underneath Jimane Nelson's smoldering organ chords, while the rhythm section crafts an irresistible groove that leans towards James Brown's "Get on the Good Foot." On top, the four horsemen wield their patented polytonal mayhem which always simultaneously boasts blues, bebop, swing, funk, and free jazz.

With a tribe of dancers, distant piano, and background chatter, the WSQ delivers the evocative "Africa-Europe-Asia," which opens like a prayer, then bursts into a jubilant stomp. They get festive with the title track and "Matshidiso" in classic South African fashion with biting lyricism. It almost goes without saying that all members of the quartet unleash wicked solos and soulful cacophony, but in recent times the funk began to stale, M'Bizo offers a different and potent stank.

Originally published in October 1999
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