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Various Artists: Jazz & Blues Compilation

You won’t find it easy, from the album title or the minimal notes, to define the approach of this San Francisco-based label, but you will find it easy to love. LifeForce’s founder, Dawan Muhammad, offers a fascinating surprise package of takes from the young label’s issues to date, themselves apparently drawn from a variety of studio and live sessions recorded over the past couple of decades. They involve world class musicians who’ve had a Bay Area presence at one time or another, a few well-known players from other parts, and some Bay treasures worthy of wider exposure. Muhammad himself belongs to the latter team, both as a suave tenor man and as an innovative composer in a variety of modes.

Ditto trumpeter Eddie Gale, who pushes the envelope to Ayler/Coleman limits and the contrasting guitarist Calvin Keys, a sweet, suave performer. Good-natured visits by Tom Harell and the late Woody Shaw and Eddie Harris will also inspire you to seek out the label’s catalogue, which seems consistent in high spirits and standards, if not in genre.

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