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Hugh Marsh: Hugmars

Violinist Hugh Marsh’s latest is a fusion of idioms, both disparate and interrelated. Jazz, psychedelic rock, funk, hip-hop, world beat and experimental dance music are a few of the ingredients used creatively and without a hint of dabbling. Marsh is joined by a bevy of able sidemen, a group that includes drummer Dafnis Prieto, whose great accomplishment is keeping the album’s improbably complex opener-an odd-time re-imagining of Sun Ra’s “Rocket #9”-as tight, funky and energetic as it needs to be. James Blood Ulmer joins in on a few tracks, not on guitar, but on vocals. His singing on Marsh’s version of Sly Stone’s “Let Me Have It All” gives the slick arrangement an attractive country-blues edge. Marsh’s violin is the dominant solo voice throughout. He’s a bracing improviser, but what impresses most is his ingenious manipulation of timbre, something he obviously takes seriously as a player and composer. Special note should also be taken of harmonica player Gregoire Maret, who does a stunning Coltrane-esque turn on “Om.” Hugmars is a rare accomplishment-a painstakingly detailed statement, a groove-driven music that’s simultaneously original, virtuosic and engaging.

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