Babatunde Lea: Suite Unseen: Summoner of the Ghost

Babatunde Lea (center) and band image 0
Bill Milkowski

Babatunde Lea (center) and band

Bay Area drummer and composer Babatunde Lea traverses Mother Africa and American bebop on his ambitious Suite Unseen: Summoner of the Ghost (Motema). While the centerpiece of Lea’s sixth album as a leader is his five-movement suite intended to call in the spirits of his African ancestors, it is interspersed with contributions from bandmates trombonist Steve Turre (“Motivation,” “Inconspicuous”) and saxophonist Richard Howell (“The Bay Area’s Afro-Latin Funky Love Shuffle,” “Maeeah’s Big Adventure”) that more seek to summon up the spirits of J.J. Johnson, Cannonball Adderley and Art Blakey.

Turre also contributes his signature conch shell work on the percussive, African-flavored jam “Spirit of the Wood.” Lea’s “From Home” opens with celebratory Yoruba chants that segue to the spiritual lament “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.” The collection closes on a funky note with Lea’s “Summoner of the Ghost,” which sounds like James Brown and Fred Wesley on an expedition in Africa.