October 2006

The Afro-Semitic Experience
Plea for Peace
Reckless DC

“This album is about peace...We pray for peace everywhere and everyone—especially (but not exclusively) for the cynics.” So say the liner notes for this album. As a card-carrying atheist and cynic, I should be happy someone’s got my back, just in case. But honestly, the A-SE’s stated mission seems like a passive-aggressive way to make me like its music (I told you I’m a cynic), a task I find difficult.

On the plus side, the band’s amalgam of jazz, klezmer, world beat and other vernacular music reveals an admirable conviction and palpable high spirits. Pianist Warren Byrd is a fine player, a strong, assertive improviser with a quirky sense of harmony. Unfortunately, not all the soloists work on so high a level. The tunes and arrangements are just OK, the grooves rote. I can imagine this being a fun party band (indeed, this is the kind of CD best sold off the bandstand). Ultimately, however, for all its good intentions, the A-SE is not ready for prime time.

Originally published in October 2006

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