A Simple Act of Faith


(CD - Cherry Red #CDBRED 668)

Review by Mark Deming

Cymande were one of the most unusual and original acts on the U.K. R&B scene in the '70s. In a musical community that generally took its cues from America, Cymande embraced U.S. styles soul and funk, but also folded in large portions of reggae, jazz, and African rhythms, and their sound was subtle but sinewy, full of groove but also thoughtful and literate -- music that could inspire dancing or a spirited conversation. 2015's A Simple Act of Faith is the first album featuring Cymande's original lineup since 1974's Promised Heights, and it was produced by John Schroeder, the same man who produced the group's first three albums. In most respects, this recalls Cymande's strong early work, except that where Cymande sometimes took on a measured tempo in their original incarnation, A Simple Act of Faith falls just short of lethargic in spots, sounding more like a new age group on "Sea of Tears" as they slowly follow a midtempo smooth jazz groove, and solemnly praising Jah on "No Weeping." Cymande have slowed down since their glory days, but the group's chops are as sound as ever; their core -- guitarist Patrick Patterson, bassist Steve Scipio, and drummer Sam Kelly -- is tight and they play this music with a quietly emphatic touch. Keyboard man Adrian Reid, percussionist Pablo Gonzales, and saxophonists Derrick Gibbs and Mike Rose (the latter doubling on flute) add just the right amount of color and texture, and these players hardly sound like a group that hasn't worked together in full in four decades. Cymande were always a group who generated an easy groove, and that groove is more laid-back than ever, but their conscious and spiritual outlook is strong on A Simple Act of Faith, and these musicians lack nothing in commitment and technique.

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