With his first release in eight years, many astute observers of the modern jazz scene should welcome this new outing by multi-reedman Bennie Maupin with open arms. Acclaimed for his stints with keyboardist Herbie Hancock’s electric-funk units of the ‘70s and session work with Miles Davis among other sojourns, this effort transmits a novel aura of sorts.
Marked by capacious musical vistas, Maupin’s distinctive sound resurfaces in glistening splendor. Bassist Darek Oles’ multi-functional role features booming ostinatos and contrapuntal dialogs with the leader. Moreover, the players intimate a quasi world-beat motif, due to the rhythm section’s gently pulsating grooves amid Maupin’s explorative passages, topped off with catchy hooks and steamy lines.
The band occasionally ventures into the free strata but tempers the flow on pieces such as "Penumbra," where Maupin’s alto flute work casts a trance-like melody atop cyclical percussion. But they pick up the pace with odd-metered funk movements during "Tapping Things," as Maupin’s stinging bass clarinet lines generate a buoyant vibe. And with the piece titled "Vapors," the musicians render a torrid bop vamp. Nonetheless, this is an impeccably thought-out endeavor! It would be a shame if the leader chooses to embark upon another recording sabbatical. Subtle surprises, crafty musicianship and sustainable compositions loom as the irrefutable highlights here.