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Spirited and Delicious World-beat Jazz

Queens College Professor Neil K. Friedman Ph.D. was the host to a neighborhood jazz outing for nephew Adam Kassell Hoffman of Londonderry, New Hampshire and college gal friend at Cleopatra’s Needle, 2485 Broadway between 92nd and 93rd Street, New York, NY on March 18, 2005 to introduce The Spirit of Life Ensemble’s world-beat to the youthful neophytes.

Beginning at 8:30pm the first tune Bradford Hayes on alto sax established a prominent presence by shoving the bell of his brass sax directly over the Mic to overplay the amplified acoustic baby grand piano played by Michael Cochrane on "Samba 2 Step". Leader Daoud-David Williams took charge and captured the attention of the bar crowd with his spirited hand drumming and use of shakers, whistles and rattles over Cochrane’s repetitive rhythmic piano. Played at this sophisticated level I don’t think it’s called bongo playing anymore. Our drinks came just in time to chat a little before a thoughtful piano solo attracted my ear backed nicely by Sipho Kanane’s drums and Calvin Hill’s acoustic bass on "Sue’s Summit" a composition by tonight’s trombonist Bob Ferrel followed by a very fast extended baritone sax solo by Hayes.

We ordered the Alexandria Delights appetizer first to go with our drinks so as not to be rushed into eating too quickly. For dinner my wife Cassandra ordered Kibbeh Sinaya - a baked ground beef loaf smothered with pine nuts and shallots with chunks of tomato served with assorted al dente vegetables, Neil choose the Spinach Lasagna, my choice was the Broiled Blue Fish unadorned accompanied by the same veggies. Adam just wanted a Caesar Salad and a Rolling Rock and his companion selected the Meat Lasagna which she said was surprisingly "spicy, Mexican flavored." The gals washed down theirs with gin Cosmopolitans served in cocktail glasses.

While we were eating, the group did "Biala Plena" and while Cassandra shared her Apricot Pudding with the young adults, trombonist Bob Ferrel entertained us unobtrusively followed by a well-thought-out bass solo by Hill on "Carlito’s Journey" and a melodic concluding ensemble. During the intermission Daoud gave me a CD titled "a little oasis", recorded in February 2004 that was released by Cristal Records as a DVD in France with a 48 minute video.

Reading the liner notes while listening to "Sue’s Summit" and "Baila Plena (Plena Funk)", I discovered that Williams organized the ensemble as "a multi cultural collective of talented artists" in 1977 that is "still creating a ‘a little oasis’ of hope, joy and freedom with boundless ‘spiritual energy’." Under the name Rise Up Productions he has produced recording sessions, events and a few CD’s available on Amazon.com.

Go to www.cristalprod.com for a listen.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Spirit of Life Ensemble
  • Concert Date: 3/18/2005
  • Venue: Cleopatra's Needle
  • City State Country: New York City
Dan Kassell

Dan Kassell expands his curiosity by attending concerts, conventions, lectures and movies to take note of the History of Jazz from the indigenous Caribes in the Caribbean to Algiers New Orleans, Chicago and New York. As a member of the Jersey Jazz Society since 1972 he's witnessed musicians who learned from jazz's founders. Reviews also appear in AllAboutJazz.com, Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com and historically in AllAboutJazz-New York, Mississippi Rag or Jersey Jazz since 1972.

First inspired by Thomas "Fats" Waller playing "Your Feet's Too Big," Benny Goodman's 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert, Louis Armstrong solos, Duke Ellington's Famous Orchestra and Bob Wilber with Marty Gross and Kenny Davern's Soprano Summit he's also became fascinated by the spontaneous improvisation of Free Jazz while working on publicity for Chico Freeman.

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