Hugh Ragin: An Afternoon In Harlem

Most of An Afternoon in Harlem features Ragin leading a well-matched quartet with pianist Craig Tahorn, bassist Jaribu Shahid, and drummer Bruce Cox. Ragin establishes an inviting straight-up feel by opening the album with an easy swinging, mid-tempo blues and an uptempo boppish blues. Ragin then spends the remainder of the quartet performances slyly stretching the program to encompass free bop, avantish ballad forms, and envelope-pushing structures. The final two compositions find Ragin expanding the ensemble to include David Murray (on bass clarinet), percussionist Andrew Cyrille, and, on the final piece, “When Sun Ra Gets Blue,” the singular voice and poetry of Amiri Baraka. By the end of the riveting twenty-minute finale, Ragin transformed the afternoon in Harlem into an evening on Saturn.