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Ernest Dawkins New Horizons Ensemble: Mean Ameen

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The “Mean Ameen” in the title is the New Horizons’ late trumpeter Ameen Muhammad-who, if the vibrant and ebullient music contained herein is any indication, was anything but mean. Muhammad died in 2003 at the age of 48. The depth of love and respect bandleader/saxophonist Ernest Khabeer Dawkins feels for his longtime friend is well expressed here.

The performances are fairly straight-ahead but enormously creative within slightly loosened conventions of small group jazz; think Oliver Nelson’s Blues and the Abstract Truth band. The tunes (by Dawkins and the band’s trombonist, Steve Berry) are largely modal constructs-tightly harmonized horns playing knotty, free-boppish or riff-based heads over swinging rhythmic vamps. Dawkins is a spontaneous, communicative soloist; he’s got an aggressive, in-your-face manner on alto and tenor, and a supple rhythmic sense. He swings hard without being chained to the pulse.

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