In an age when Man clings on to the things that a comic book superhero stands for—both in the print and on film media—it is almost as if the only living and superior-thinking thinking work of God’s hands has forgotten the recent age when music, at least, was governed by angels and archangels, and saints who could do no wrong; all of whom were reared by Titans.
Fortunately there are still reminders: men like Curtis Fuller, Ornette Coleman, and, among a handful of others, chief among them baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber—all of whom inhabit the rarefied realm that separates Man from God. And when Cuber plays he makes it a point to remind those who will listen, that there still is one and he is guiding the spirit of men like Cuber so they can protect the men who went before him> On Boplicity, an extraordinary record by any standards, the great baritone saxophonist “sings” in praise of two plus one of those musicians who passed on into the communion of saints before him: These men were: trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, his soul mate, the great alto saxophonist Charlie Parker and in naming his album just so, he pays homage to another great one: Gil Evans (aka Cleo Henry).
But it is in the gentle growls and throaty smears, and in the temperate snarls that Ronnie Cuber pays tribute to the ancestors. Cuber proves yet again that he is a singular voice deeply connected with many baritone saxophonists who went before him. His is lyrical to the point where he embodies the ancient yin-yang symbolism: dark and feminine, yet bright and sinewy and masculine. He plays with such a gush of molten fluidity that his lines lope and bubble along beginning excitedly, like a brook, and then gathering speed, there is the proverbial gush that rushes like a river in spate. Cuber’s musical topography is the whole register of his big blasé horn. His playing is spiritual. Notes often hang in the air above his horn, poised like offerings to God. Then they melt and pout out like libations. Always the music emerges from the Cuber’s soul. It has always been that way with Cuber. This is what endeared him to the great Charles Mingus.
On this record, Ronnie Cuber has been joined by true royalty. Bassist, Cameron Brown has played with every possible musician from vocal spirit, Sheila Jordan to another tenor Titan, Archie Shepp and is a sublime harmonic colourist. His playing on Gil Evans’ “Boplicity” is sensual and achingly beautiful, capturing the wryness of Evans’ chart in all its majesty. Elsewhere when Ronnie Cuber calls more hip and breathtakingly swinging bebop charts, Brown’s fingers become embellished and more fleet as they speak in the stuttering grandeur of Bop’s outstanding language. Charlie Parker’s classics, “Quasimodo,” “Cheryl,” superbly motivic “My Blue Suede Shoes” and the great bebop chart, “Now is the Time” have a magnificent, sweeping elasticity to them. Cuber’s melodicism and his gushing harmonies are superbly colourful.
Dizzy Gillespie is also represented by the miraculously beautiful “Groovin’High,” a chart that sees pianist Michael Wolff stretching and displaying extraordinary chops. Moreover the fervour of his playing is remarkable and he recalls the heightened spirituality of early Bud Powell. Johnathan Blake is an inspired choice and he keeps recalling the robust drumming that Kenny Clarke once brought to the beboppers. But it is Cuber who somehow raises the bar on bebop. Moreover his majestic tone is so utterly memorable that it seems to come not only as a blast from the past, but reconnects that era with the future with a rollicking performance in the here and now.
Tracks: Ow!; Quasimodo; Cheryl; Boplicity; Groovin’High; My Little Suede Shoes; Now’s The Time; Out Of Nowhere; Night In Tunisia.
Personnel: Ronnie Cuber: baritone saxophone; Michael Wolff: piano; Cameron Brown: bass; Johnathan Blake: drums.
Ronnie Cuber – Website: www.artistdirect.com
Label: SteepleChase Records
Release date: February 2012
Reviewed by: Raul da Gama
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