Guitarist and Village Voice writer Greg Tate's Burnt Sugar has been one of the most hyped bands I have ever encountered on the Web. Their future as a cutting-edge operation is secure, though I am hardly satisfied with the group's latest offering, The Rites (Avantgroid). Make no mistake: conductor Tate's collective is loaded with talent-including former Miles Davis guitarist Pete Cosey and bassist Melvin Gibbs-and independence, two of creative music's most important qualities. In the spirit of Alan Silva's Celestial Communication Orchestra and, needless to say, Miles Davis' electric period, Burnt Sugar is slow and deliberate in the way its musical offerings unfold. But on The Rites they are perhaps a bit too slow. This work should be praised for the chances it takes to interpret Stravinsky's legendary "Le Sacre du Printemps," but translating this classical piece to an improvised funk and rock setting doesn't always work. In other words, translating Hugo's Les Miserables into Swahili might not hold up.
Give these bold artists their props for effort and courage, though, and make sure you digest "Sky Porch." This final track works better than "The Rites 1-7," which sounds like a struggle at times. Inside the CD it asks, "Would [Stravinsky] have liked this?" I think I know the answer.