Each item in trumpeter Jon Hassell's discography, from 1977's Vernal Equinox (Lovely Music) through a string of albums in the 1980s and 1990s (including the two Fourth World outings on EG, Power Spot on ECM, and City: Works of Fiction on Opal) to the sleek instrumental hip-hop of 1994's Dressing for Pleasure (on Warner), is so exquisitely recorded and meticulously crafted and fussed over that the idea of a live Hassell album might at first sight seem alarming. But though the basic material for six of these seven tracks was indeed recorded in concert in Paris, Montreal, and Milan between 2000 and 2003, Hassell, true to form, has painstakingly reworked the source recordings, incorporating new material and "migrating" some elements from one performance to another (comparing the two versions of "Open Secret" is a fascinating exercise in itself). Indeed, if the booklet didn't tell you that "New Gods" was recorded in a studio in L.A., you'd never guess. Hassell's horn is as silky and understated as ever, and his band, including bassist Peter Freeman, keyboard whiz John Beasley, and guitarist Rick Cox (vocalist extraordinaire Dhafer Youssef guests on the tracks recorded in Paris), is the model of precision and good taste throughout. Hassell's work is often misleadingly billed as new age, but despite its accessibility it's far richer and multi-layered than most of the music tagged with that unfortunate epithet. Maarifa Street is a work of extraordinary compositional craftsmanship by a modern master.
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AllMusic Review by Dan Warburton