Rodney Whitaker

Children of the Light

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For his debut as leader, Rodney Whitaker takes center stage on several melodies and solos frequently. His playing is well-rounded in every respect, and he has a supple, sleek, strong tone. His core group for this outing consists of James Carter (tenor sax), Cassius Richmond (flute), Wallace Roney and Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Cyrus Chestnut (piano), Karriem Riggins and Gregory Hutchinson (drums), and Andrew Daniels (percussion); pianist Geri Allen and baritone saxophonist Alex Harding make cameo appearances. Three of the 11 tracks were penned by Whitaker -- the bass/percussion workout "Woman Child," the jungly "(Queen) Roz," and the crackling "Langman." Ken Cox's triumphant melody for Nelson Mandela, "Mandela's Mood," is a highlight, featuring bright melodies and Afro-Cuban underpinnings. Everyone solos on this piece, but it's Carter's histrionics that really provide the exclamation point. There are two hard boppers -- a version of "Broadway" featuring a path-clearing solo by Carter, and Richmond's "Mood Swings," which finds Carter and Roney acting like Wayne Shorter and Miles Davis. The title track features Payton's plaintive head statement and Chestnut's fervid solo. Whitaker's wife, Monzola, contributes the soft "One Silent Moment," while Roney lights things up for "On Dolphin Street." Allen waxes poetic beneath a bed of exotic, subtle rhythms on "El Morro," and the finale, "Cultural Warrior," is languid and solemn. Whitaker shows a grand diversity on this complete package of modern jazz. Highly recommended.

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