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Harriet Tubman: Araminta (Sunnyside)

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Harriet Tubman (photo by Michael Halsband)
Harriet Tubman: Melvin Gibbs, J.T. Lewis, Brandon Ross (from left) (photo by Michael Halsband)
Harriet Tubman: "Araminta"
Harriet Tubman: "Araminta"

It’s no slight to suggest that Araminta—the band Harriet Tubman’s fourth album in 20 years, whose title comes from the birth name of the abolitionist—is a sort of 2010s update of Miles Davis’ early fusion work. For one thing, guest trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith is both obviously and admittedly influenced by Miles; he shares the legend’s expressive, vibrato-less tone and discrete approach to phrasing. Put him against the dark, swirling electric maelstrom brewed by Tubman’s core improvisational trio—guitarist Brandon Ross, bassist Melvin Gibbs, drummer J.T. Lewis—and the comparison is obvious.

But the flavors of jazz fusion on Araminta are too diverse for the album to be considered an outright homage to Miles. While “The Spiral Path to the Throne” reads like a sequel to “Yesternow,” from Miles’ Jack Johnson, “Blacktal Fractal” rests on a cocky funk groove, “Ne Ander” presents serrated, sludgy metal of the type John Zorn favors, and “Real Cool Killers” is a Hendrix-ian psych workout.

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