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Sharpe, Avery: 400 - An African American Musical Portrait

Here is an interesting jazz album that has crossed my listening desk and in the current social and political climate is important to hear. Jazz veteran Avery Sharpe presents us with 400 - An African American Musical Portrait highlighting the black condition spanning across the centuries beginning in the year 1619. There is no doubting the importance of this work from an historical perspective but what about the music? Well, Sharpe (double bass, vocals) and his guest musicians bring mostly originals, there is one cover - a Gospel protest song, to the table and the results are spellbinding. I have reviewed two other albums of his work so this came as no surprise to me as the man is a magician on the double bass. The tracks are divided into four centuries beginning with “Arrival”, a song marking the beginning of slavery when enslaved Africans arrived on August 25, 1619 at Hampton (Jamestown), VA. Rich trumpet and swirling piano meld with Avery’s consummate bass playing and melodic choir vocals gives the piece a gospel influence. One of the best parts is the acoustic guitar break as Kevin Eubanks is a fantastic guitarist. Flute ad choir vocals form the bulk of “Is There A Way Home” with its excellent flute solo and catchy vocals. African-like rhythms and a stellar bass solo rounds out the package. “Colonial Life” has a slow groove with pretty acoustic guitar and flute melodies with support from flugelhorn and piano. It’s a relaxed sound and again I can’t say enough about Eubank’s acoustic skills. Some amazing fretwork here. The sorrowful violin melody in “Fiddler” really captures the plight of enslaved Africans, a song one could imagine hearing on a plantation in the not so distant past. The song ends with a burst of upbeat joyousness perhaps relating to a people who found light in even the darkest of days. Amazing gospel choir vocals begin “Antebellum”, a song marking the beginning of the American Civil War and the ensuing Emancipation Proclamation put forth by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863. The choir arrangement is simply stunning (you need to hear it for yourself) and is featured throughout the a cappella piece.

Avery Sharpe has produced another excellent album, stirring rich traditional music with modern jazz band interplay and the results are very special indeed. Released on JKNM Records.

Track Listing:
1. Arrival (6:03)
2. Is There A Way Home (4:52)
3. Colonial Life (5:36)
4. Fiddler (3:02)
5. Antebellum (5:14)
6. A New Music (7:15)
7. Harlem and The War to End All Wars (5:36)
8. Blues and World War II (6:54)
9. Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around (6:34)
10. 500 (6:26)

Added: September 29th 2019
Reviewer: Jon Neudorf
Related Link: Artist's Official Site
Hits: 1183
Language: english

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