Ernest Dawkins' New Horizons Ensemble

Chicago Now, Vol. 1

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This CD is full of surprises and unpredictable music. Altoist Ernest Dawkins and his versatile sidemen perform a wide variety of originals. "Improvisation #1" (which was freely improvised in the studio) evolves from sound explorations to a riff section and back, while "Improvisation #2" is a lowdown but spacy blues. The longer pieces tend to be episodic and a little reminiscent of Charles Mingus in the way that they reinvent the past a bit to form a new and uncertain future. There are times when the group is not perfectly in-tune and Dawkins' soprano playing on "Bold Souls" makes one realize that it is probably his fourth best instrument. Much better is his fiery alto playing on "Dream for Rahsaan," a tribute to Roland Kirk. The final three numbers are consistently exciting, trumpeter Ameen Muhammad adds power to the group, trombonist Steve Berry blends well with Dawkins' alto, and the pianoless rhythm section (guitarist Jeffery Parker, bassist Yosef Ben Israel, and drummer Reggie Nicholson) is alert and driving. This is a highly recommended disc that keeps alive the Chicago AACM tradition.

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