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Babatunde Lea: Level of Intent

Percussionist Babatunde Lea’s music is filled with accessible depth, groove and earthy vibes. His tunes feature eager and hungry percussive colorations, tasteful technical facility and fresh hand-slapped and stick-led patterns. Those rhythms operate within the usual Spanish-Caribbean musical frameworks in and through jazz’s cosmos, with bluesy passages and rockish in-your-faceness. Lea’s previous CDs Soul Pools and March of the Jazz Guerillas already bear those claims out-as does their newly reissued ancestor, Level of Intent.

On this CD, John Purcell soaks you with his raspy tenor-sax denouements in the penetrating, Gershwin-insinuated romance of “Ask Me Now.” Tommy James’ piano playing has loving mischievousness there, and Lea can’t sit still massaging trap drum edges on the group as Santi Debriano cuddles all up in his bass groove. On the title cut pianist Kenny Barron and bassist Charnett Moffett sit in.

Trombonist Frank Lacy is notable on “Father of Dreams, Daughter of Destiny,” where he burns white-hot in mambo and swing passages, and with his braying on “I’m Back” and his drive on “Fools and Babies.” And the Jon Faddis, Moffett and Lea opening trio rendition of Charlie Parker’s “Billie’s Bounce” (mis-named “Billy’s Bounce”) warms my soul long after listening to it.

Originally Published