Big Medicine's liner notes describe R. Carlos Nakai Quartet's first album as "a new jazz expression haunted by the experience of native America." It's an excellent description. Whether you call it jazz fusion or new age, it undeniably strikes a new chord in the spectrum of Native American music. Drawing upon diverse influences, such as Ornette Coleman and Sun Ra, rich melodies and energetic performances are played upon a large assortment of both traditional and non-traditional Native American instruments. R. Carlos Nakai and AmoChip Dabney combine for a lush duo on Native American flutes and saxophones, respectively. Jazz singer Mary Redhouse, of the Redhouse Family, lends her electric bass playing and "eco-spiritual vocalizations." Longtime Nakai collaborator and drummer Will Clipman keeps the pulse for the quartet with dynamic percussive soundscapes using drums such as congas, djembe, udu, and hoop drum. Native American music, rock, and jazz rarely sound as good together as they do on songs like "Prairie Smoke," "Crow Canyon," and "Mitakuye Cyasin." The R. Carlos Nakai Quartet teamed up again in 2000 for the slightly different Ancient Future album.
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AllMusic Review by Jeff Schwachter