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07/11/13

Robert Hurst
Bob: A Palindrome

In the charged atmosphere that pervaded the immediate wake of 9/11, many a musician looked for comfort and meaning in the familiar. For bassist Robert Hurst, that meant surrounding himself with friendly faces at these October 2001 sessions in New York: Saxophonist Branford Marsalis, drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts and trumpeter/flugelhornist Marcus Belgrave all had previous history with Hurst, the latter going back to their teen years in Detroit. Bennie Maupin, offering flute, saxophones and bass clarinet, was another Detroiter; pianist Robert Glasper, yet to record his leader debut, was still new to Hurst’s circle (they would work in a trio setting the following year); Adam Rudolph was called in on percussion. Music was made, but the recording was then shelved while Hurst went on to find employment with a who’s who of jazz and pop headliners and as a scorer of films.

That a recording this vital should have remained unreleased this long borders on criminal neglect. It’s a treasure. It peaks midway through with the three-part Middle Passage Suite, progressing sequentially through a lead-in built upon Hurst’s foghorn-in-the-night arco and Rudolph’s pyrotechnics; a noirish, chamber-like second movement; and ultimately a convulsive denouement that finds Watts giving his crash cymbals a serious workout. Prior to that, there’s “Picked From Nick,” wherein Glasper’s Rhodes and the Belgrave/Maupin/Marsalis battery suggests the lighter side of early fusion. Both “Big Queen” and “Little Queen,” though seemingly unrelated thematically, take their time to spread out. By the time “Jamming—a.k.a. Ichabad” arrives, we’re in Miles funk-era territory. It’s all rather sumptuous and thoroughly engrossing, but with this crew how could it be anything but?

Originally published in June 2013
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