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Burnt Sugar : All Ya Needs That Negrocity

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You have to stretch your vocabulary to parse All Ya Needs That Negrocity, the pointedly titled 12th album from Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber. Burnt Sugar is the sprawling, tribal band Village Voice writer Greg Tate (on guitar, lyrics and laptop) and bassist Jared Michael Nickerson founded in 1999. The New York-based ensemble scrambles genres, paying homage to everyone from Ellington to Sun Ra to Hendrix to Parliament-Funkadelic in the process. There’s more: As interpreted by vocalists Lisala and Maya Azucena, Astor Piazzolla’s “Libertango” soars and pops, Mazz Swift’s dervish violin giving it a stunning Gypsy overlay. Burnt Sugar may be a collective, and it’s a jam band for sure, but Tate and Nickerson’s production guarantees each player full power, and the group’s purpose is unmistakable: to shake things up, your booty included. Frees your mind, too: Check out the pungent sax interplay on “Bliques Haff Moor Funn,” also a showcase for “Sugar emeritus” pianist Vijay Iyer.

Despite the stylistic versatility, the soundscape often conjures late electric Miles-Andre Lassalle, guitar ghoul on the scary “Throne of Blood 33 1/3,” blends Hendrix and Pete Cosey-and the politics are easily as subversive. On the poignant, angry “Burning Crosses,” Abby Dobson’s huge, plummy voice aches while Rene Akan’s guitar twines. This music is aggressive and fearless no matter the mode-and there are “soft” cuts. (Not many, though.) There’s also a hidden 12th track, a pushy venture with buried vocals and Tackhead drive saying it’s time to act like an African. Coming on the heels of the synth-drenched “Blood Music,” it’s advice the band also stresses in the album’s clever title. Question is, do you pronounce “negrocity” like “ferocity” or make it two words? Works both ways and then some, like the music itself.

Originally Published