Ahmad Mansour

Creatures

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Those who dislike fusion in general have been known to promote some silly myths about that type of jazz. Myth number one: fusion isn't really jazz (of course it's jazz -- true fusion has always had a jazz improviser's mentality). Myth number two: fusion is all chops and no sensitivity. While the latter is true in some cases, it certainly isn't true in all cases -- besides, there is plenty of hard bop that has a technique-for-the-sake-of-technique mentality. A lack of sensitivity isn't a problem for Ahmad Mansour on Creatures, which finds the guitarist co-leading a quartet with tenor and soprano saxman Ole Mathisen (who is from Norway), bassist Terje Gewelt, and drummer Ian Froman. Creatures is very much a fusion album, but it is hardly an album that sacrifices sensitivity or warmth in the name of chops. While Mansour does indeed have strong chops, his guitar playing is undeniably lyrical on original pieces such as the airy "Sunday," the funky "Creatures of Habit," and the somewhat Leni Stern-ish "Nocturne." Most of the songs were written by Mansour, although four were contributed by Mathisen (including the mysterious "Falls" and the melancholy "Var"). Another Mathisen contribution is "Perennials," which has a slight Middle Eastern flavor. Mansour is originally from Iran, and he is no stranger to the modal/scalar playing that has been a part of Middle Eastern culture for centuries -- a style of playing that caught on in the jazz world in the late '50s and early '60s thanks to fearless explorers like John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Yusef Lateef. Not a five-star masterpiece but definitely respectable, Creatures is worth obtaining if you appreciate an ECM-influenced approach to fusion.

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