Morgan Bouldin: Wide Open Spaces

Another inventive keyboardist, Texan Morgan Bouldin, offers a nexus of styles-from tribal to jazz to modern funk, tracing Afro history and influence in music and story, on Wide Open Spaces (HSR 10022; 59:34). Bouldin draws on his musical vocabulary to build natural, theme-supportive arrangements, like the classic-style R&B tones of “Funny Face,” with its step-up rhythms and vintage, bright organ sounds, and the lumbering groove and bittersweet, moody tones surrounding “Emptiness Is Sometimes a Good Thing.” Among the best examples is the heavily textured “Washing the Spears,” which peppers a walking-funk feel and deep-in-your-chest bass with spindly guitar accents, trumpet calls and chant vocals for a bracing, timeless quality. Bouldin’s centerpiece here, the complicated story-song “We Like to Run (The Battle of Isandhlwana),” carries this universality further-meshing jazz piano and R&B features with heavy hip-hop grooves and a rap lead to convey the epic struggle of the Zulu army against British forces with power and grace.