Driving While Black is Bennie Maupin's first album as a leader in 20 years. Maupin, who is famous for his bass clarinet playing on Miles Davis' Bitches Brew, and for being a member of Herbie Hancock's Headhunters, teamed up with Patrick Gleeson, who introduced Hancock to synthesizers and worked on the Apocalypse Now soundtrack (1979). They have produced an album which skillfully blends '70s fusion and '90s acid jazz: Gleeson's funky hip-hop beats sound fresh and up to date, while his usage of analog synths (listen to the beautiful Fender Rhodes sound) breathes a '70s air. Maupin's saxophone playing is powerful and strong on improvisation; this is particularly nice to hear since Maupin's '90s record appearances have been, for the most part, surprisingly weak. The Whitfield/Strong-penned "Smiling Faces" is the catchiest track; originals include the funky "Bank Float," "Vutu," and "The Work," which veers into drum'n'bass territory. The best track, however, is "Miles to Go," where Maupin shows that he's still one of the best bass clarinet players around; his screaming and squealing through Gleeson's synth washes is probably his best performance (on record) in years. Another nice surprise is on "In Re: Nude Orbit," where the famous Random Resonator on which Gleeson worked, and which opened Hancock's Sextant (1973), can be heard. While both performers on this disc are in top form, some of the tracks might seem a bit unfocused at times, but after repeated listenings, this actually might turn out as a plus. Techno Animal did a remix of the track "Miles to Go," which can be found on the compilation Macro Dub Infection, Vol. 2 .
AllMusic Review by Christian Genzel