Sonic Liberation Front

Sonic Liberation Front Meets Sunny Murray

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The Philadelphia-based Sonic Liberation Front have been combining lyrical free jazz blowing, Afro-Cuban rhythms, and the occasional subtle dash of funk for more than a decade. The group's drummer, Kevin Diehl, has known legendary free jazz drummer Sunny Murray for a quarter century. On this album, those two threads are tied together, as Murray is heard in two different guest appearances with the group: a studio session from 2008 and a live performance from 2002. Though he's one of the most powerful drummers in jazz, free or otherwise, Murray never truly takes over the music; he's a guest in this house, and he acts accordingly, supporting the group rather than turning its compositions into platforms for drum solos. Still, some listeners may be reminded of his own 1969 album Homage to Africa, particularly on "Meaningless Kisses," a Murray composition that begins with an extended drum-and-percussion intro before the horns -- Terry Lawson on tenor sax and Todd Margasak on cornet -- begin to wail. The three live tracks that close the disc are slightly rawer-sounding, of course, but they're more or less of a piece with the studio material, reinforcing the idea that Sonic Liberation Front have a defined style and, slightly more ironically, that so-called "free" jazz has rules every bit as strict as those governing bebop or big-band swing.

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