View from Afar
View From Afar (LMS), by the Larry Steen World Jazz Ensemble, is a Vulcan mind meld of dissimilar sonic backgrounds. The bassist and leader assumes the role of a musical fashion designer, with his own line of complex Western classical and jazz harmonic chordal garments, using various ethnic rhythmic and melodic traditions as his runway models. Central Asian motifs, with virtuoso dumbek percussive interchanges, Steen's lithe funky bass groove march and added bousouki single-note picking is there for all to see in the Greek "Horiatiki Salata." Dreamy and otherworldly is the atmospheric result of drum 'n' bass and Balinese barong dance mixing with a smoothed sax, Steen's fretless bass, fruitful programming and acute keyboarding. "Whelan's Jig," of Irish, Cameroonian and Western stock, furthers the case for Steen's handiness with electric bass as well as his composing and arranging. But perhaps "Karshlama Blues," where the West meets the Middle East in a blues middle, is an even better model of the attractiveness of this type of 21st-century world-jazz fusion.