Ernest Dawkins' New Horizons Ensemble

Jo'Burg Jump

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For decades, many people have been insisting that Europe is more supportive of jazz than the U.S. -- and there is some truth to that claim. No, James Moody and Wayne Shorter aren't outselling Madonna anywhere in Europe, and you can be sure that Wynton Marsalis fans don't outnumber Pearl Jam fans in Paris or Stockholm. But it is true that some American jazz musicians have found more work in those cities than they were getting at home; they didn't get rich, but they kept busy. And without question, a lot of European labels have been willing to document improvisers who were being ignored by American labels. Take Ernest Dawkins' New Horizons Ensemble, for example. Founded on Chicago's south side in 1979, the avant-garde/post-bop outfit has recorded for Swedish and German labels but didn't record for an American label until it provided Jo'burg Jump for Delmark in 2000. Although left of center, Jo'burg Jump isn't an album of atonal screaming. Dawkins' band favors an inside/outside approach, and its influences range from Charles Mingus and Sun Ra to the Art Ensemble of Chicago and other AACM artists (which isn't surprising because Chicago's south side is definitely AACM territory). "Transcension," "Stranger," and other Dawkins originals are angular and abstract, but again, this isn't an album of atonal free jazz -- avant-garde, yes, but not as far to the left as Anthony Braxton. Nonetheless, Dawkins doesn't go out of his way to be accessible. Jo'burg Jump must be accepted on its own terms, and those who aren't expecting a quick musical fix will find that the CD has a lot to offer. It's too bad that it took the New Horizons Ensemble 21 years to record for an American label.

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