Ralph MacDonald

The Path

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With an all-star cast that rivals if not surpasses his Sound of a Drum solo debut, Ralph MacDonald's sophomore effort, The Path, remains his most ambitious and successful solo record. The 18-minute title cut is a mind-boggling journey charting the progression of African-American music from its roots in tribal drumming through evolutions from blues to jazz to funk -- aided by drummers Idris Muhammad, Steve Gadd, and Rick Marotta as well as soloists including Michael Brecker, David Sanborn, and Bob James, MacDonald creates a virtual primer in percussion, navigating the twists and turns of his musical narrative with stunning precision. The record's second half can't help but suffer by comparison, although even the slightest material retains MacDonald's flair for deeply funky rhythms.

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