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October 2004

Sonic Liberation Front
Ashe a Go-go
High Two

Ashe a Go-Go (High Two), by Philadelphia's Sonic Liberation Front, is a challenging yet engaging album. Playing free jazz over a grooving rhythm is nothing new, but not many bands do it as well or as uniquely as SLF. For one thing, SLF's music isn't based in funk or jazz. It's Afro-Cuban in concept, combining bata drumming with jazz horns, ambient electronics and vocals. The multiple percussionists concoct extraordinarily complex grooves. The horn players can't help but be inspired by the hotness of the rhythm section. Tenor saxophonist Terry Lawson stands out; his particle-accelerator of a solo on "Init" made the hairs rise on the back of my neck. Give credit where it's due: leader/percussionist Kevin Diehl is an outstanding contextualist. His band reminds me somewhat of Peter Apfelbaum's Hieroglyphics Ensemble, only earthier. Arthur Blythe's Bush Baby trio from the '70s also comes to mind, only instead of using just one horn and one percussionist, SLF uses a bunch of each. The sound is bigger, but the grit and heat are the same.

Originally published in October 2004
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