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Michael Pedicin: Why Stop Now…Ubuntu

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Several apparently disconnected influences coalesce on Why Stop Now … Ubuntu, tenor saxophonist Michael Pedicin’s 12th album as a leader. First there is the concept of Ubuntu, an African word meaning human kindness at its simplest, but an idea that extends much deeper into the social fabric of several African cultures to signify a universal oneness. Then there is Coltrane, to whom Pedicin is indebted unabashedly. Two Coltrane compositions, “Tunji” and “Song of the Underground Railroad,” plus Pedicin’s own “Trane Stop,” are on the playlist. Finally there is Newtown. Guitarist Johnnie Valentino’s composition of that title honors the victims of the Connecticut tragedy and ties into the Ubuntu theme of solidarity.

How all of this finds common expression in the music may not be overt, but it’s impossible not to absorb the sought-after sense of unity, both within the tranquil pieces and the freewheeling, more aggressive ones, including Pedicin’s “Downtown Found” and the pure-bop “Why Stop Now.” Pedicin, Valentino, pianist Rick Germanson, bassist Andy Lalasis and drummer Vic Stevens balance the sensitivity and placidity of the ballads with an inquisitive urgency in the funkier, hotter tunes (Coltrane’s “Song …,” especially). It’s possible, of course, to hear tasteful, skilled blowing, but it’s just as easy to surrender to the intent of this feel-good outing and luxuriate in its sense of hope.

Originally Published