This 68-year-old trumpeter is among a select sect of musicians who have coined a genre name ("Fourth World Music") and carved a distinctive sigil in the global soundscape. Every Jon Hassell album is a unique vessel of tones and atmospheres, invariably otherworldly yet oddly inviting and even comforting. Over the last 30 years of his consistently brilliant career, Hassell has refined his trademark elements-phantom gamelan pulsations, ghostly blurring of mentholated Miles Davis/Chet Baker plaintiveness, queasily tranquil atmospheres, exotica and funk-into infinitely malleable particles. Maarifa Street/Magic Realism 2 proves this innovator's creative powers haven't waned.
Constructed from three live performances and subsequent studio tweaking, Maarifa Street finds Hassell's trumpet less adorned than previous outings. Here it mostly arcs in understated, soulful mellifluities that make Miles at his coolest sound hot and flustered. Hassell spends much of Maarifa Street updating his 1983 opus Aka-Darbari-Java/Magic Realism with subtle dub and funk touches (thanks to Peter Freeman's subliminal, plump bass prods) and Dhafer Youssef's occasional oud and vocal contributions.
The utterly gorgeous and moving Maarifa Street reveals that Hassell's Fourth World is surely the most hospitable available to us.