Jazz Espiritu

This little big band featuring bassist Raschim Ausar Sahu and drummer George Gray is indeed a very spirited ensemble. The music, written by bassist Raschim, rings true to the name of the group and the music presented at Sistas’ Place. It is a Music of the Spirit! The other musicians in this ensemble Anthony Ware and Yosuke Sato on woodwinds and Andre Murcheson on trombone, were largely new names to me although I was familiar with the work of French hornist Mark Taylor and pianist Benito Gonzalez.

The two sets performed on May Day, May 1, 2010, were extraordinary examples of good writing, good arranging and really good improvising. Raschim Ausar Sahu is a really gifted composer and bassist. I’m told he has at least 400 compositions to his credit yet this is the first time he has had an opportunity to unveil them at Sistas’ Place. In fact, this group was the first in a special series we are promoting at Sistas’ Place, which will end on June 5th, in which we give an opportunity of presentation to groups that have never been to our venue before.

In this group each musician who played a solo, performed with passion and fervor and improvised extremely well on their featured songs. It was immediately understandable why Raschim Ausar Sahu and George Gray were listed as co-leaders of this group. Raschim is easy because he is the composer but he also positions himself at the center of the stage, like another great bassist/composer/bandleader Charles Mingus, who led workshop/ensembles for many years. Raschim’s sound like George Gray’s rhythms are at the center of this group. George Gray is such a master percussionist that he makes the complex rhythms he produced seem effortless. The other member of this rhythm trio is Neil Clarke, whose previous engagement kept him from making the first set. The interaction between Neil Clarke and George Gray was so astounding that you really had to be there to understand its profundity. They played together so that one could not even hear when one instrument ended and the other one began. The seamlessness of their musical statement was a model of compliment. Their dynamic level went from a whisper to a roar without losing any momentum.

Of special note as far as the other players were concerned was Benito Gonzalez, who played the piano like a man possessed each time he got an opportunity. I got to hear him the following week with saxophonist Azar Lawrence at the Lost Jazz Shrines Concert at the Tribeca Performing Arts Theater, on May 7th. I came away from that concert knowing that he Benito Gonzalez was definitely “a take no prisoner” kind of soloist. Everytime he played it was amazing!

Mark Taylor was also familiar to me. He had performed at Sistas’ Place before with the Ebony Brass group led by Alfred Patterson. Mark also plays Mellophone and he has got to be one of the handful of people on the planet who plays that instrument outside of the drum and bugle corps. His solos were always tasteful and he always left the listener wanting more. Jazz Espiritu is a really dynamic ensemble that really deserves to be heard from.

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