While 2007's Dawn was a huge step forward in Build an Ark's ambitious melding of generations, cultures, and genres, it only prepared the way for Love Part 1 -- the first in a two-part series recorded during the same sessions. Seasoned by touring across the United States, Europe, and Japan, Build an Ark -- co-led by musical director/producer Carlos Niño, arranger/multi-instrumentalist Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, and composer/vocalist Dwight Trible -- is among one of the most original voices on the modern alternative jazz scene on either side of the two biggest oceans. Love Part 1 is tighter and more song-oriented in terms of approach than previous records. The title track is a short, lilting instrumental written by Nick Rosen and Atwood-Ferguson that borrows inspirationally from Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart." It features gorgeous flute work by Tracey Wannomae. It's a brief intro that gives way to "This Prayer: For the Whole World" by flutist and tenor saxophonist Yaakov Levy, an uptempo jazz number that touches on the '70s work of Azar Lawrence and Gary Bartz. Phil Ranelin's "How Do We End All This Madness?" is a modal jazz powerhouse with a fine solo by the composer before a chorus of vocalists answers that question with Sun Ra's "Play the Music." Singers here include Trible, Mia Doi Todd, Damon Aaron, and Waberi Jordan, to name a few. Other covers on this set include a moving instrumental reading of Van Morrison's "Sweet Thing" with a fine reprise/cadenza by Atwood-Ferguson, and a stellar version of Pharoah Sanders "Love Is Everywhere." That said, Trible's "Celebrate" showcases his brilliance and soulfulness as a singer, while "Sunflowers in My Garden" by Jordan is a hip cosmic soul tune that Roy Ayers would give his eye teeth to have written. The chorus vocals that dominate "In the Park" and "May It Be So" are startling in their restrained elegance. Atwood-Ferguson's arrangement relies on subtlety rather than power to get it across. Carmen Lundy introduces "More Love" backed by a quartet before she drops out. The rest of the tune is a wide-open improvisation which becomes, as its title suggests, a proper intro to the more improvisational Love Part 2. Build an Ark may readily reference the past, but the music they expertly perform and compose is part of a continuum that looks toward the future as a fulfillment of its promise, and a brand new chapter in the spiritual jazz book.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek