Various Artists

Illuminations: An Axiom Compilation

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Axiom is a subsidiary of the Island label whose stable of artists runs the gamut from traditional African musicians to downtown New York experimentalists, all united around the nucleus of bassist and producer Bill Laswell. Given the eclecticism of the label, this sampler veers wildly between musical styles, with mostly successful results. It opens with the sinuously lovely "Sittel Habayeb," an orchestral piece by the Arabic composer Simon Shaheen. This segues nicely into Material's version of the '70s funk classic "Cosmic Slop," a version which benefits greatly from the presence of drummer Sly Dunbar and bassist Robbie Shakespeare. Other high points include pieces by bassist Jonas Hellborg and Indian violinist Shankar. The collection's stylistic diversity is obviously meant as a selling point, but sometimes it backfires: it's difficult to imagine anyone being in the mood for both Ronald Shannon Jackson's free jazz assault and the dark, rhythmically intricate Gnawa music of Marrakesh in the same one-hour period. But this is the sort of willful eclecticism that makes Axiom special.

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