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The Afro-Semitic Experience: Jazz Souls on Fire

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This is a band bent on creating a communal experience, and does it ever. Sparked by the impossibly fast, genre-scrambling piano of Warren Byrd and spiced by the resonator and lap-steel guitar of Stacy Phillips, the Afro-Semitic Experience pays homage to, among other forms, Jewish folk, African-American gospel and spiritual music, and such jazz inspirations as Ellington, McCoy Tyner, Hank Mobley, John Coltrane and Leon Thomas. Along its leisurely, lovely way, this expansive ensemble has fun being as irreverent as it is respectful.

This veteran New Haven aggregation imbues its music with joy and flair, suggesting that no matter the style or period, jazz can bond; listening evokes a black-and-white, analog era in which jazz was a popular music. Jazz Souls on Fire makes you want to dance, particularly on the traditional “Fon Der Khupe” and on Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s aspirational “Up Above My Head I Hear Music in the Air” (complete with a Middle Eastern middle). It makes you want to shout “hallelujah” as the ASE turns Coltrane’s “Wise One” and Mobley’s “Soul Station” into blues-soaked epiphanies.

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