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Robert Hurst: Black Current Jam (Dot Time)

Ten inspired original compositions built around Afrocentric themes

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Cover of Robert Hurst album Black Current Jam
Cover of Robert Hurst album Black Current Jam

Nearly two decades after slipping out of the golden handcuffs of the Tonight Show band, Detroit-born Robert Hurst has released what feels like one of his most ambitious recordings. Black Current Jam is an eclectic set of 10 original compositions built around Afrocentric themes and encompassing an eclectic range of jazz-rooted rhythms and textures, bolstered by a fresh arranging style and driven by the leader’s distinctive approach to the bass guitar and double bass.

His upright, adorned and unaccompanied, cues the disc’s start, laying down a slippery groove that sparks the urban-acoustic vibe of “Detroit Day.” That track references Hurst’s hometown and incorporates a melody doubled on vocals and Rafael Statin’s saxophone; it’s the first of several tracks deploying that device, with the help of, variously, singers Brendan Asante and Jillian Hurst, the bassist’s daughter. The leader shifts the perspective to a kind of pan-African view, with the percussion-and-vocals unity groove of “Two Beats and a Breath.” There, Faith C. Hall’s urgent spoken-word incantations connect the musical dots among disparate cultures and traditions.

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