David Murray Fo deuk Revue

David Murray
Fo deuk Revue
Justin Time

ON PAPER, THE lineup for the "file under: world/jazz/rap" band Fo deuk Revue seems too good to be true. David Murray--perhaps the most protean, passionately prolific tenor saxophonist in jazz over the past 20 years--hooks up with a top-notch cadre of West African musicians, singers, and rappers in Dakar, Senegal. They're joined by a squadron of panache-heavy American ringers, including agile, finger-popping bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma, trombonist Craig Harris, poet Amira Baraka, and Baraka's vocalizing son, Amira Jr. In the liner notes Murray himself writes, "Every accomplishment and step that I have made in music throughout my life has been a stairway to what I believe will be my most significant achievement, to be the leader of Fo deuk Revue."

Statements like that help turn a pretty good record into a huge disappointment. Murray has always been blessed and cursed by a gigantic creative appetite and Fo deuk (the phrase means "Where do you come from?" in the Wolof language) often aspires to more than it can deliver. On the opener, "Blue Muse," Murray bursts forth with one of his classic tenor effusions, his honks and squeals leaving skid marks all over the tune as he variously channels Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Rollins, Dewey Redman, and John Coltrane through his horn. The muscular rhythm section responds in kind. Tacuma's fleet, funky bass lines flow in and out while a host of percussionists play brittle African and Asian polyrhythms that fly by so fast they liquefy into a singular groove. Yet, for all its thrills, the sheer sonic density of the song frequently cancels out the glorious interplay.

Elsewhere, when the rap, jazz, and "worldbeat" styles try to waltz (instead of mosh) together, they step on each other's toes. "Too Many Hungry People" and "Village Urbana" are simultaneously awkward and agile in this manner, and often seem trapped in a middle zone between tongue-in-groove syncopation and anarchic glee. Set to an Afro-fusion groove, Baraka's history rant on "Evidence" sounds like a heated rehash of the Last Poets. Likewise, the more acoustic "Chant Africain," which includes a children's choir, is also too self-consciously preachy. All contain plenty of sterling moments; they just don't add up to the sum of their parts.

The most successful songs are those in which the previously unrecorded Senegalese sextet Dieuf Dieuf takes the lead, accommodated by Murray and the other jazz cats. "Abdoul Aziz Sy" features the stark passion of the West African griot tradition. Highlighted by the haunting lilt of Tidiane Gaye's vocals and beautiful guitar work from Assane Diop, the song ululates without becoming melancholic. Murray's stentorian tenor arrives late, announcing its presence with the warm authority of a sunrise. His bass clarinet playing on "One World Family" has a similar resonance and restraint. When the Afrocentric closing track, "Thilo," likewise benefits from a pruned arrangement, it becomes evident that Fo deuk Revue's surfeit of talent can indeed be too much for its own good.

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