November 2002

Warren Byrd/David Chevan
This is the Afro-Semitic Experience
Reckless DC

Like the almost-too-declarative title says, This Is the Afro-Semitic Experience (Reckless DC), and it's an experiment that mostly goes down easily, thanks to the crusader zeal of pianist Warren Byrd and bassist David Chevan. This is not to say that all is seamless on the recording, but the rough edges don't negate the labor of love involved. Byrd and Chevan's group freely oscillate between Jewish themes adapted to a jazz setting and more clearly jazz-inclined tunes like Mingus' "Better Get Hit in Your Soul" and Abdullah Ibrahim's "Water From an Ancient Well." The finale, "Waters of Babylon," with its soulful melody articulated on dobro by Stacy Phillips, plays against the lyrical exhalations of the two leaders. In such a conspicuously experimental context, it doesn't seem too startling to hear Phillips' anomalous glissandos on lap steel amidst trumpeter Ben Proctor and the keening sax work by Will Bartlett, Richard A. McGhee III and a musician named Mixashawn.com. The music is loose and fortified with spirit, no doubt partly because ecumenicist ideals percolate beneath the session.

Originally published in November 2002
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