R. Carlos Nakai

People of Peace

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Native American flutist R. Carlos Nakai usually performs in traditional settings, but he occasionally branches out into more experimental and wide-ranging forms. People of Peace, officially credited to the R. Carlos Nakai Quartet, is one of those experiments, a kind of Native American acid jazz. Although a few songs stay pretty close to Nakai's usual turf, like the near-solo "Trade Winds," on which his only accompaniment is Mary Redhouse's evocative wordless vocals, most of the album adds piano, synthesizers, bass, and percussion (traditional native instruments, Latin hand drums, trap kits, and beatboxes) to Nakai's reeds. Most albums in this style tend to sound like some bedroom DJ simply laid samples from an old traditional Native American record over some pre-programmed beats, but this is much more musically substantial, organic, and satisfying than that: on songs like the reflective "Kiva Smoke," Nakai's overdubbed flutes layer over Amo Chip Dabney's fluid piano improvisations with a relaxed grace. Though People of Peace may be too low-key -- that dreaded word "mellow" can be used without irony here -- for some, it's a very good example of the right way to do Native American fusion.

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