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Irvin Mayfield: Strange Fruit

Rare indeed is the musician who can make two albums as disparate as Irvin Mayfield’s latest Los Hombres Calientes album with Bill Summers, Vol. 5: Carnival, and the premiere recording of Mayfield’s lynching chorale Strange Fruit. Almost unheard of is the musician who can make them both this good.

Carnival’s title lets you know what it has in store: No matter how complicated the rhythms Summers lays down, no matter how dizzyingly elaborate Mayfield’s trumpet solos, no matter what Afro-Latin-American tradition the two men are drawing on, they’re making party tracks. “Latin Tinge II” features blistering improvisation from Mayfield that locks into the Latin rhythm underneath, with frequent ensemble brass hits to help keep the trumpeter in line. “James Booker” and “George Porter” both pay sweat-breakin’ tribute to their namesake funkmeisters, while “Mardi Gras Bayou” has perhaps the hottest rhythm of all of them, beginning with a stutter and settling into an abbreviated-sounding loop that leaves plenty of space for some soulful singing and a wickedly twisting brass line.

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