Rashied Ali / Rashied Ali Quintet

Judgment Day, Vol. 1

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Before ex-John Coltrane drummer Rashied Ali passed away in the summer of 2009, he released two recordings with a quintet of relatively unknown younger musicians, and the resultant modern jazz music is surprisingly excellent. Where you might assume a freely improvised bash, the ensemble provides some exciting hard bop and straight-ahead music that has plenty of chops and invention to command your attention. Trumpeter Jumaane Smith and tenor saxophonist Lawrence Clarke form a solid frontline in the Woody Shaw/Joe Henderson tradition, very harmonically inclined and ready to blow. Born in the Netherlands, bassist Joris Teepe is the most well-known musician aside from Ali, while Canadian pianist Greg Murphy has some spotty credits, but an association with Ali going back to 1987. There's a solid foundation and cohesion, making the group's sound both arresting and compelling. Some outstanding nay quintessential music can be found, as the forward-thinking "Sidewalks in Motion" uses beats of three and five in eight via a lighthearted, whimsical framework, and outstanding solos from each horn. The faster "Dania" is lithe and pungent, similar to Shaw's original concept in the tradition and beyond. The horns sing and sway during the Clarke-penned title track's clarion echoes, Scottish bagpipes tinge with Clarke assimilating a sourdough sound similar to Archie Shepp. "'Shied Indeed" is a typical Blue Note hard- to post-bop blowing vehicle, "The Big Push" has that easily rendered swing with a fluid melody line and agreeable, unified horn sound, while "M.O." is introduced by the fierce cage-rattling drum solo of Ali, while Smith and Clarke forge mighty, razor-sharp lines and a deftly accented melody. These are all extremely strong selections which stand head and shoulders above their contemporary cousins in this genre, and burn down the house. You also get the sneaky and slippery "Raw Fish" in 6/8 time, and the "After the Rain" Coltrane-like, Don Cherry composition "Multi-Culti" (sic: it should be "Multi-Kulti") which starts as a free floater and morphs to a calypso pace. A rock-solid recording from beginning to end, this is a crown jewel in Ali's small discography, and all of those interested in modern mainstream jazz should pay close attention to it.

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