Carlos Ward

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Carlos Ward, while not the most prominent of modern jazz musicians, certainly holds a small circle of world-class credentials, including collaborations with Don Cherry, Abdullah Ibrahim, and Randy Weston. An alto saxophonist with a vibrant tone and a flute master of the highest order, Ward's second recording, and the follow-up to Lito, shows him in a variety of sometimes quirky, commercial, or funky and clever settings. Top-drawer assistance from fellow Panamanian Alex Blake, the marvelous bassist from Weston's African Rhythms trio, helps immeasurably. Kirk Lightsey's studied and measured piano playing and the expert drumming of Pheeroan AkLaff, both with Detroit credentials, give an earthy feel to the music. The famous tune "Pettiford Bridge" done by Cherry is arranged slightly different, with Ward's flute and alto sax stating the cool but perky melody overdubbed, while the choppy Latin posture of "San Blas" (amusing title) has Lightsey dancing on his keys under Ward's vibrato alto. Meanwhile regular stop-start methods make "Rosa Takes a Stand II" and the modal swinger "Dance" the most quirky and fun tunes. There are also four flute or alto solo pieces at the end of the CD from a concert date, one flute solo that redefines the less interesting ensemble take of "Nubian Stomp." Ward's sturdy tone and ability to sustain musical ideas at length is impressive, and has made him desirable as an accompanist. There are some less than appealing straight funk numbers that never catch fire, though the happy title track with Ward's bubbling alto is the exception. While not overall a great recording in relation to the monster talent built-in, this can be enjoyed in varying degrees by fans and a more commercial audience alike.

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