Positive Knowledge

Live In New York

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The sort of insistent vocalizing over a free jazz undercurrent characterized by the group calling itself Positive Knowledge is not unique: others, such as Jayne Cortez, have successfully pursued a similar path. Still, it is a rare enough bird that it somehow evokes a fresh, almost mesmerizing air about it, particularly when performed at the high level that is found here. Positive Knowledge is co-led by the husband-and-wife team of Oluyemi Thomas and Ijeoma Thomas, both of whom dominate the sound: the former with occasional over-blowing and focused intensity, and the latter with a powerful yet sonorous voice. Rounding out the quartet are bassist extraordinaire, Wilber Morris, in one of his last public appearances, and drummer Michael Wimberly, a fixture in the world of New York avant-garde jazz. Morris balances brains and brawn on his featured solo piece, "Mother Africa (for Wilber Morris)." Recorded live at the Vision Festival (2001), the group projects the liquefied, eclectic, even elastic, approach of Oluyemi Thomas' reeds which, no matter how vigorous the attack, seem to speak with a relaxed confidence. He locks horns often with Ijeoma; and her vocal gymnastics simulate the braying of the saxophone. She rises above the rubble like a confident prophetess who knows she is right (about whatever it is). This is one of those rare occasions where the mix of poetry and jazz succeeds on so many levels; setting an example for the genre.

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