June 15, 2006

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Word-Beat, The Soul Dances
T&T Music, 2006

Former faculty members at the Levine School of Music in DC, Tom Teasley and Charles Williams have collaborated for the past decade on several Word-Beat projects, a fusion of ancient rhythms and modern jazz. It’s a friendly, soul-enriching experience kicked off this go-round with the Nairobi-flavored “Shambo,” in which Williams adopts the vocal presence of a fattened voodoo shaman leading a tribal dance to the accompaniment of a modern drum kit, trombone and trumpet. “Wade in the Water” lays a polyrhythmic cajon and djembé carpet beneath a Calypso-like call-and-response spiritual at the #4 spot, which is about when things begin to get more technically daring, particularly in “Babethandaza,” a South African folk song menaced by the lowering of a didgeridoo horn. Middle Eastern themes get some real estate as well; Egyptian dervish traditional “La Ilaha Illallah” adds common woodwind instruments to shakers and other oddities. First impressions can be a little mixed as far as the jazz features, but the overall essence has been painstakingly studied, resulting in a heavy accent on the primitive. B+

— Eric W. Saeger


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