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March 2009

Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber
Making Love to the Dark Ages
LiveWired Music

With a name like Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber, Greg Tate’s latest project conjures up everything from funk, jazz and rock to the avant-garde world of Sun Ra and the hard-hitting hip-hop of the Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Yet when the band delves into the three-part album opener, “Chains and Water,” they first hit you with a blend of Delta blues and modern soul, propelled by the saucy vocals of Lisala. (How many different ways does she manage to intone and enunciate the phrase “I go back, I go back, I go back, I go back, I go back, I go back to chains and water”?)

Tate works with a huge array of musicians on Making Love to the Dark Ages, and he knows how to use them. Trumpeter Lewis “Flip” Barnes Jr. turns in a solo on “Chains and Water” that grows more and more discordant before the tune takes on a hip-hop bent that becomes an all-out jam in the long middle section—which, in turn, leads into a brief final section of Ellington-inspired swing. (Whew.)

More wildness ensues: The heavy romp of “Thorazine/81” teeters at the edge of chaos for much of its nine-and-a-half minutes, and an unusual cross of hip-hop and free-jazz-style soloing (from bass clarinet, no less) threatens to create a new species of music on “Love to Tical.” Then Tate goes further afield, using his laptop to create a rhythm of blips and beeps on the ballad “Dominata” and a backdrop of noises on the 18-minute title track. And what a tune: Mysterious, tense, and dramatic, it builds toward several highlights, including a fantastic solo from baritone saxophonist “Moist” Paula Henderson.

Originally published in March 2009
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