By Hobart Taylor | Published April 2020
Benjamin Boone often explores the intimate confluence of melody and speech. On the two volumes of The Poetry Of Jazz, a collaboration with the late United States Poet Laureate Philip Levine, the saxophonist demonstrated his ability to fluently interact with and reply to a spoken text.
On Joy, Boone expands his penchant for conversation. Stemming from his time as a Fulbright Scholar in Ghana, Boone engages in dialogue with Bernard Ayisa, one of Africa’s most esteemed tenor players, and Ayisa’s partners in The Ghana Jazz Collective. Their musical speech has a West African lilt, but the language is all-the-way jazz.
On the opener, “The Intricacies Of Alice,” a rollicking head leads to Boone, Ayisa and pianist Victor Dey Jr. chatting through funky medium-tempo solos. The vibe continues on a reimagining of Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage,” which features a prominent bass line, and out-harmonies that arrange the saxophones and the voice of Sandra Huson in skewed triads. Dey’s solo echoes Hancock’s famous reading, just more calmly. Particularly impressive is “Curtain Of Light,” a work written by Jonovan Cooper, an American composer living in Ethiopia. Dramatic and explicit, the tune evokes a thundering dawn breaking through mountainous crags.
The album also features a pleasant ballad, “Without You,” again highlighting Huson, and the title tune “Joy,” a Gerry Niewood composition, that should remind listeners of soundtracks to breezy 1960s French New Wave films.
Joy: The Intricacies Of Alice; Maiden Voyage; Slam; Curtain Of Light; The 233 Jazz Bar; Without You; Joy. (40:56)
Personnel: Benjamin Boone, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Bernard Ayisa, tenor saxophone; Victor Dey Jr., piano; Bright Osei, bass; Frank Kissi, drums; Sandra Huson (2, 3, 6), vocals.