John-Carlos Perea

First Dance

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John-Carlos Perea is a composer and multi-instrumentalist whose debut album is an amalgam of world music, jazz-inflected fusion, and Native American folk forms. The cat is a monster bassist and he plays the cedar flute as well as sings here. His compositions in most cases are compelling, particularly "Opening Prayer," with its flute and saxophone twine with Mario Barrera's timbales sparely setting the urgency of the emotions in the foreground. In many ways this album feels like the late Jim Pepper's Comin' & Goin', particularly in the way the saxophones are used. But the fusiony world funk of "First Dance," with its long, loping saxophone lines -- performed by Enrico Del Zotto and Hafez Modirzadeh -- is punctuated by a punched-up fretless attack by Perea and a slippery backbeat by Elliot Humberto. The strange entwining of Native American folk song and Hebrew melodies on "Blues for My Blood Quantum" is a sharp and clever twist on the similarities that can be found in the melodies of chants. The improv section leaves the body of the tune behind a little early and the rhythm section slips into a reggae groove, but it only makes it sound more streetwise. About the only thing that doesn't work here is the version of John Coltrane's "Naima," which sounds forced and stilted in its execution. It's reverential in feeling if not in actual execution, and holds back the gorgeous melody at its heart. But this is a small complaint. First Dance is a delightfully slick and polished debut.

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