8 Bold Souls

Sideshow

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Almost everything about 8 Bold Souls has a warm, darkly burnished feeling. Leader Edward Wilkerson, Jr. has a marked predilection for the lower registers of instruments and for somber, rich melodies with insinuating basslines that ensnare the listener. The opening piece, "Black Herman" has an introductory vamp so beguiling that the band stays with it for a good seven or eight minutes before surrendering to the main them, only to be drawn back to it at the close. It's entirely appropriate that the one non-original composition included on this fine record is Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman," one of jazz' most beautiful dirges. Much solo space here is given over to the two string players, cellist Naomi Millender and bassist Harrison Bankhead, and each wrings out deeply affecting variations on Coleman's heartbreaking theme. The entire cast of musicians is solid and creative; Mwata Bowden contributes some extraordinary work on baritone sax and clarinet and Wilkerson himself is a muscular, vibrant player, especially on tenor. The overall feel of his compositions is somewhat similar to that of fellow Chicagoan and AACM member Henry Threadgill's mid-size bands, though 8 Bold Souls tend toward a generally more contemplative approach. "Sideshow" is one of the finest and most unduly neglected jazz albums of the '90s and is highly recommended for fans of Threadgill, David Murray, or other post-bop ensembles.

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