(129) Ed Hazell, Jazziz -- August 2006

It's been a long time coming, but multi-reed player Maupin finally has made his great album as a leader. A perennial sideman in early fusion bands (most notably on Miles Davis' Bitches Brew) and in Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi, Maupin helped connect hard bop and jazz-rock, but he never enjoyed wide acclaim. Without casting an eye back to his past fusion glories, Maupin forges ahead on this album, with an unfailingly lyrical woodwind voice that works in concert with a unique and subtly textured ensemble.
Maupin's bass clarinet has always been his calling card. On "Neophilia 2006" and "Message to Prez," he plays it with an intimate woody tone and coaxes lovely melancholy phrases from it that glance off the rhythm section at unexpected angles. His airy alto flute weaves ethereal melodies over African rhythms on the title track. His tenor sax has a slight acid bite to it, just enough to give a plaintive edge to "Walter Bishop Jr." and "Trope on a Rope."
The band's instrumentation is spare --
 bass, drums, and percussion -- but potent. Darek Oleszkiewicz's bass lines provide a dark hardwood trestle around which the rest of the band intertwines. Drummer Michael Stephans swings mightily at a quiet volume, his brushwork implying power and providing drive while leaving space for the soloists. Percussionist Daryl Munyongo Jackson adds color and additional rhythmic thrust without adding clutter. Maupin has put together a late-career masterpiece that was worth the wait.

Ed Hazell
August 2006