Music » CD Reviews

Hamid Drake / Assif Tsahar

Soul Bodies, Vol. 1 (Ayler)

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Hamid Drake is the most important drummer in jazz right now. Able to play any polyrhythm on the planet, he's equally at home in the most unfettered circumstances. He's played with everyone from Fred Anderson to Peter Brotzmann, in every possible configuration. This release documents a performance from 2001's Vision Festival in New York.

Drake's foil on Soul Bodies, saxophonist Assif Tsahar, wasn't a very compelling listen when he first emerged -- you got an idea of his record collection (Ayler, Sanders, Coltrane), but not much of a clue to his own musical personality. Over time, though, by working with musicians like Drake and bassist William Parker, he's turned into a promising player. He's learned to temper his rants with phrases of surprising delicacy, and he rarely loses the audience's attention now, the way he sometimes did in his younger, louder days.

Tsahar's progression is painted in broad strokes on Soul Bodies, as the three longish pieces that make up this disc are uniformly compelling. The opener is a tenor-sax rant, followed by a meditative bass-clarinet exploration to which Drake adds tablas and small percussion devices. The final piece is another tirade, with Drake taking the proceedings into trance-space as often as possible. It all works to ensure that any effort required to obtain this barely released treasure will be amply rewarded.

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