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The OGJB Quartet: Bamako (TUM)

A review of the album from Oliver Lake, Graham Haynes, Joe Fonda, and Barry Altschul

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The OGJB Quartet, Bamako
The cover of Bamako by the OGJB Quartet

OGJB—Oliver Lake, Graham Haynes, Joe Fonda, and Barry Altschul—characterize themselves as a “leaderless” quartet. In that spirit, the compositions featured here serve as sketches to be built and elaborated on (and often entirely reconfigured), not as templates or structural frameworks.

Unison passages are tightly executed, yet with just enough raggedness to their edge that the individualism of each man’s expression remains paramount, reflecting the overarching theme of this project: the kind of collective freedom that demands full trust and faith, both in one another and in the outcome of the journey. Conversely, even the most unfettered “free” improvisations, in which horns, bass, and drums skitter, dance, clash, embrace, and pirouette with jubilant abandon, retain their sense of purpose, often resolving themselves into a final unison statement, as if in celebration of an inseparable bond.  

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David Whiteis

David Whiteis is a critic, journalist, and author based in Chicago. He is the recipient of the Blues Foundation’s 2001 Keeping the Blues Alive Award for Achievement in Journalism. His books include Southern Soul-Blues (U. of Illinois Press, 2013) and Chicago Blues: Portraits and Stories (U. Of Illinois Press, 2006). He is currently at work completing a book on contemporary Chicago blues and a co-written autobiography of the late soul singer Denise LaSalle.