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Hamiet Bluiett: King/Bluiett Trio: Makin’ Whoopee

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Baritone saxist Hamiet Bluiett and tenorman David Murray have been half of World Saxophone Quartet since its inception while alto and soprano saxophonist Eric Person had a brief stint with the group. Outside that hallowed institution, they all continue to pursue startling music as well.

Bluiett’s blustery baritone seems an unlikely front for a tribute to the Nat King Cole Trio, yet on Makin’ Whoopee, his horn subs for Cole’s piano and the result is rather striking. The trio includes bassist Keter Betts and guitar duties split between Rodney Jones and Ed Cherry. Together they put a fresh face on Cole’s piano trio repertoire including “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” “Sweet Lorraine,” “Walkin’ My Baby Back Home” and “Christmas Song.” On Bobby Troup’s classic, “Route 66,” they’re joined by narrator Myrrh, who delivers a fun-filled commentary of life on the road while the group plays on.

The power and majesty of Bluiett’s baritone is world renowned, but mostly in less structured situations. Here, he works out on time honored standards and his deep, robust tone, facility and imagination rise to the occasion. One can just picture the smile on Nat King Cole’s face had he survived long enough to hear Bluiett’s interpretations.

At the 1994 Anlieues Bleues jazz festival in France, David Murray met master drummer Doudou N’Diaye Rose from Dakar, one of Africa’s most famous musicians and the composer of the Senegalese national anthem. Then, in May, 1996, Murray ventured to the African nation and its capital, Dakar, where these two musicians joined forces to record Fo Deux Revue, a true musical fusion. Together with several long-time collaborators, including ex-Miles Davis keyboarder Robert Irving III, bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma and trombonist Craig Harris, David Murray uses his music as a forum combining Doudou N’Diaye Rose’s drumming, charismatic singer Hamet Maal, Senegalese traditional electric band Dieuf Dieul and rap duo Positive Black Soul, the leading light of African hip-hop.

The result is potent, a magical symbiosis of jazz and the music of Dakar’s neighborhoods which blends age-old drumming traditions with Wolof rap, Tukulor songs, hip-hop, poetry and classical African-American music along with Murray’s rip-roaring sax. The eclectic nature of this creation can be illustrated by the CD cover advisory to retailers to “file under World/Jazz/Rap.” Amen!

Eric Person’s third CD charts a course between tradition and individuality. Unlike some who fly comfortably under the flag of Avant Garde or Neo-Bopper, Person’s music brings together the best of both worlds, with inventive compositions and arrangements that take unexpected twists and turns, as well as distinctive solos. Throughout, the St. Louis native is teeming with ingenious ideas expressed on his resonant alto and sonorous soprano.

Tales features eight originals and a composition by Terence Trent D’Arby, “If You Should Go Before Me,” and a beautiful, rarely played Miles ballad, “Little Church.” Person’s collaborators are particularly adept. Except for drummer Gene Jackson, their names may be new but their talent marks them as unusually promising: John Esposito on piano, Cary DeNigris on acoustic guitar, Jim Finn on flute and bass clarinet and Calvin Jones on bass. Watch out for these cats!