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Rodney Whitaker: Hidden Kingdom

A clear sense of direction is missing in the writing and ensemble performances on this album. Blakey’s Jazz Messengers seem to be the strongest influence, with a little Mingus thrown in. The leader, a bassist and Oscar Pettiford fan, wrote five of the ten tunes, and various sidemen contributed four others. Fourteen musicians, including trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, saxophonists Ron Blake and James Carter, pianist Peter Martin and drummer Gregory Hutchinson, appear in different combinations.

Belgrave plays some fine, long boppish lines on Pettiford’s “Blues in the Closet” and tenorist Blake demonstrates a tasteful ballad style on “The Child in the Womb.” Carter is tasteless on “Open Hit,” using bizarre effects rather than musicality. Whitaker solos well throughout the album, suggesting Mingus and LaFaro in addition to Pettiford. But, despite these and other strong solos, there is the nagging feeling of solos in a nebulous context.

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