Robert Hurst

Black Current Jam
(Dot Time)

With Black Current Jam, bassist Robert Hurst is determined to cram in as much of the African diaspora in the Americas as possible. Straightahead jazz harmonies and improvisation merge therein with Caribbean clave and percussion, Brazilian lilt, funk and r&b grooves and textures, West African melodies and polyrhythms, and even African American poetry/spoken-word tradition. It’s a multivariate fusion. Yet Hurst not only pulls it off, creating an insoluble whole with his Detroit-based cohorts; he sounds absolutely beautiful in doing so.

He sets up “Detroit Day” with an African-inspired bass ostinato, then gradually layers funk drums, Latin percussion, salty soul saxophone and bebop/Afro-Cuban piano lines. Brendan Asante finally adds a melody that would fit into any or all of the above traditions, alternating between scat and lyrics.

Most remarkable is the attention Hurst pays melody, especially for a bassist known for navigating complex rhythms. Central though these are to “Detroit Day,” or to the groove-fest “This Is Your Brain On Drums,” there is rarely a turn away from prominent vocal melody. On “Bela Bunda” Asante scats along with Rafael Statin’s bass clarinet and saxophone; on “Keepin’ It Rio,” he vocalizes in gentle harmony to Hurst’s guitar-like playing. “Afromation,” a smooth, gorgeous ballad that is the disc’s best, finds Asante’s scat harmonizing with both Statin’s flute and himself (overdubbed) along with Hurst’s bass and Ian Finkelstein’s sensitive, melodic piano. It, and Black Current Jamoverall, is a triumph.

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