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Liquid Soul: Fighting Back

Liquid Soul

After two years out of the gym, Liquid Soul is back and fighting trim. The Chicago-based ensemble, which helped pioneer acid jazz in the early 1990s, returns with its fifth album, One-Two Punch (Telarc), a dense sonic uppercut to the solar plexus. Led by multifaceted saxophonist Mars Williams, the seven-piece band has reinvented itself with a new cast and a fresh take on its genre-crunching sound. Actually, the album is less a coming-out party for Liquid Soul’s reincarnation than a venturesome studio hang with an eclectic collection of friends, such as DJ Logic, Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid, Smashing Pumpkins drummer Matt Walker and Widespread Panic keyboardist John Herman.

From the opening track, “Baghdad Cafe,” Williams makes it clear that he’s not playing by the rules. Powered by Iqbal Singh’s insistent tabla work, the piece is a mind-bending mash-up that sets an Arabic riff to a pummeling rock backbeat. Williams, who weighs in on various reeds and woodwinds as well as keyboards, loops and electronics, is joined by a high-octane horn section featuring trumpeters Doug Corcoran and Hugh Ragin and trombonist Andy Baker. The album also marks the return of Liquid Soul cofounder Tommy Klein on guitar after a hiatus of almost a decade.

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