Anthony Brown's Asian American Orchestra / Anthony Brown

India & Africa: A Tribute to John Coltrane

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Drummer Anthony Brown assembled this large ensemble to present the work of John Coltrane in a way that would meld his avant-garde jazz, influenced as it was by the music of India and Africa, with the instruments and tonal and rhythmic languages of those regions. This large ensemble, which adds Indian percussion and stringed instruments to a moderately sized jazz band, plays Coltrane's melodies (pieces performed include "Living Space," "India," "Olé," "Dahomey Dance," and "Africa") in a surging, modal manner, and occasionally the ensemble breaks down into subgroups, for example during the tabla-sarod duet that takes up nearly seven minutes of the album's first (Indian) half. Some of the "African section" seems to owe as much to the Art Ensemble of Chicago as to Coltrane (and, after all, that group paid tribute to the saxophonist on their own Dreaming of the Master's Suite in the '80s), as small percussion instruments and vocal chants launch the performance. But when the band launches into "Africa," the bass, drums, and percussion create a mighty throb, over which trumpets and saxophones squeal and soar. The ensemble's version of "Liberia" is fierce and swinging, the perfect lead-in to the brief "Percussion Discussion" and an extremely funky, almost Afro-beat run through "Dahomey Dance." By the time the performance concludes with a nearly salsa arrangement of "Afro Blue," the listener has been on quite a globe-trotting journey, and it's been well worth the trip.

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