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December 2001

Hamiet Bluiett/D.D. Jackson/Kahil El'Zabar
The Calling
Justin Time Records

While Hamiet Bluiett's authoritative, rich baritone sax has worked well in quartet and large band settings, he's also proven entirely capable of adjusting and succeeding in a trio format. His latest trio session with pianist D.D. Jackson and percussionist Kahil El'Zabar occasionally becomes too collaborative, however: the three are so attuned to each other that their own voices sometimes get lost in the magnificent collages they conceive.

Bluiett not only plays a forceful, aggressive baritone, he exhibits range and ingenuity on alto clarinet and wooden flute. Jackson's an acclaimed pianist, and displays his ivory work on The Calling, but he shows a soulfulness on the disc's organ selections that is revealing (though his few forays on the bass synthesizer do little to aid the music). El'Zabar's barrage of rhythms, textures and sounds both ground and punctuate the compositions. His drumming isn't great, but it doesn't hinder the music's effectiveness; he's more interesting as a percussionist, using kalimba and bells to provide additional contrast or change a piece's direction.

The threesome composed nine of the CD's 10 tracks, with the lone outside tune being the least impressive: Jothan Callins' "Blues for the People" has a thin melody, and not even the energetic interaction between Bluiett, Jackson and El'Zabar can rescue it. Otherwise, the disc is split between evocative pieces like "Open My Eyes" and "Wake Up and Dream," bombastic numbers such as "Black Danube (aka the Calling)" and quick-burst efforts like "We Are."

Although it would be nice to hear some pieces where each member gets more time in the spotlight, that doesn't detract from the quality and integrity of The Calling.

Originally published in December 2001
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