Here is an interesting and not paradoxical combination: Bennie Maupin on Cryptogramophone. Maupin hasn't been heard from as a leader since 1998 on his fine, funky, Driving While Black. That doesn't mean he hasn't been busy; he's played on records by Chick Corea, the Headhunters, George Cables, Victor Bailey, David Arnay, Mike Clark, and others. He was also part of DJ and producer Carl Craig's revolutionary Detroit Experiment. Penumbra is all his, however, and aside from Jewel in the Lotus, it may be the finest outing in his catalog as a leader. Maupin plays his usual array of instruments – tenor, soprano, flute, bass clarinet, and piano. He is joined by the excellent bassist Darek Oleszkiewicz (also known as "Oles"), drummer Michael Stephans, and Darryl "Munyungo" Jackson on percussion. Rhythm is the key here, as all of these 14 compositions are rhythmically propelled. Maupin's compositional frame has been informed by all of his teachers, most notably John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and Yusef Lateef. Modal motifs can be heard in most pieces, and Maupin's playing around and through the rhythm makes for infectious and quietly dramatic listening. Restraint is a key element of all the tracks on this set. Tunes don't "swing" per se, but they are excellent examples of the deep interplay of the ensemble.
Bennie Maupin's Cryptogramophone label follow-up CD to Penumbra both parallels and provides a departure from that excellent effort. What is similar is the softer tone Maupin is displaying in his far post-Headhunters days, refined by experience and cured though wisdom. The music Maupin plays on this beautiful effort is even more subdued, as he collaborates with an ensemble of relatively unknown musicians from Poland. If you've been hearing recent efforts from Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko and his ECM recordings with the teenage pianist Marcin Wasilewski and his trio, you hear stark similarities. But further, the recently reissued Maupin epic Jewel in the Lotus, which was also on ECM, is quite different than this ECM sounding project. Old may in fact be new again in some respects, but in this case, new is really new. Maupin offers so much appealing music within the undercurrent, starting with the delicate but paced "Black Ice" and the waltzing title track with Maupin on soprano sax. Separate flute and piano lines are woven into a more somber waltz "Tears," or the sparse, spacy, long "Spirits of the Tatras" with dynamics patiently rendered up and down with lots of piano from Michal Tokaj, who rivals the crystalline musings of Wasilewski on the entire album.
A pair of funky jazz sets from Bennie Maupin – '77's Slow Traffic To The Right and '78's Moonscapes – together in a single set! Slow Traffic To The Right is Maupin's first LP for Mercury, and a great bit of spiritual funky jazz that recalls a lot of the sound of his work with The Headhunters. The first track, "It Remains to Be Seen", is an excellent groover, with some very dark keyboard work by Patrice Rushen, and the rest of the tracks are pretty great too. Pat Gleeson produced and plays synth on the LP, and the cuts include "Quasar", "You Know the Deal", "Water Torture", and "Lament".
' Bennie has played and recorded with a wide variety of musical icons, including trumpeters Davis, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard; pianists McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Andrew Hill; saxophonists Lateef and Marion Brown; and drummers Roy Haynes, Jack DeJohnette, and Lenny White – to name only a few. He has played in all manner of musical settings and configurations, from solo performances to large orchestra concerts; from chamber recitals to Broadway shows. There is simply nothing the man can’t do and do brilliantly.' Liner Notes Penumbra
' Bennie Maupin's Cryptogramophone label follow-up CD to "Penumbra" both parallels and provides a departure from that excellent effort. What is similar is the softer tone Maupin is displaying in his far post-Headhunters days, refined by experience and cured though wisdom. The music Maupin plays on this beautiful effort is even more subdued, as he collaborates with an ensemble of relatively unknown musicians from Poland.' Michael.G.Nastos@allmusic.com
' Some of the best and most forward thinking of today’s young musicians clearly find ways to avoid being locked into a stylistic corner by self-proclaimed mavens of jazz and improvised music. Such eclecticism has to come from somewhere. Two of the major breeding grounds for this kind of imaginative diversity were and are, of course, the many musical odysseys of Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Both were restless seekers, never satisfied with the status quo, always reaching beyond themselves for new and uncharted improvisational geographies. Both men, each in his own way, sounded a clarion call for musicians and listeners alike to wake up, shake off their complacency and free themselves from the known. It’s safe to say that among those who were first to hear the call was woodwind virtuoso and master improviser, Bennie Maupin.' Liner Notes
Features the high-fidelity SHM-CD format (compatible with standard CD player) and the latest 24bit 192kHz remastering. A stone killer from organist Lonnie Smith – one of his completely cooking early albums for Blue Note, and a hard-burner all the way through! Smith's working here with a really great group that includes Idris Muhammad on drums and Melvin Sparks on guitar – both of whom give the album a really heavy bottom, and almost make the set feel like one of those classic Prestige jammers from the same time.