The Afro-Semitic Experience: Plea for Peace

“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.