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Build an Ark: Peace with Every Step

Album Notes

Build an Ark, a musicians' collective from in and around Los Angeles that numbers 20 members from three generations, was formed by producer and DJ Carlos Niño as a peace action in response to the grief and rage following September 11. Originally designed for a one-off radio performance, the group includes veteran jazzmen Phil Ranelin (Motown session man and Tribe Records co-founder), Derf Reklaw (Phil Cohran's Artistic Heritage Ensemble), and Dwight Trible and Nate Morgan (Horace Tapscott's Pan Afrikan People's Arkestra), as well as renowned percussionists Alan Lightner and Adam Rudolph in addition to singers, dancers, and drummers. If the project has an air of familiarity about it, one that references Sun Ra's famed Arkestra, that's on purpose, not so much to remake the wheel but to acknowledge the spirit and spectacle of a musical community. The album's title is taken from a Stanley Cowell tune from the 1970s that is covered here. While the concepts of "peace and love" may have died in the popular culture of the 1970s, these folks ain't playin' around. The music is a wonderful amalgam of African rhythms, jazz, soul, and poetry that blends organically and accessibly around loose, easy grooves. The set contains 18 cuts, including Pharoah Sanders' "You've Gotta Have Freedom" (with a stellar vocal by Trible), an interlude of "Japan" (with killer Rhodes work by Morgan), a brand-new version of Ranelin's classic "Vibes from the Tribe," and a killer take on Cowell's other spiritual jazz masterpiece, "Equipoise." There's fine original material, too, such as "Village Soft," an African flute and hand drums improvisation that centers around a gentle and constant free-flowing polyrhythm; "Priceless Precious," adapted form a tune by Horace Silver; and Reklaw's awesome percussion workout "Nu Baya Roots." In addition, there is a wild medley fronted by bandmember Baba Alade, who combines Anthony Newley's "Pure Imagination" and his own "Tortoise and the Hare" with acoustic guitar, flute, and hand drums; the result feels like the folksy groove of Taj Mahal combined with the jamming soulful intensity of Richie Havens with a chorus of backing vocalists. Also deserving mention is the gorgeous "Peace and Love," written by the collective with lyrics inspired by jazzman Gary Bartz. This is a compelling and utterly surprising debut that fires on all cylinders. It's got sass, punch, joy, toughness, chops, and plenty, plenty soul! Given the power and elegance of Peace With Every Step, those of us who are non-Angelinos can only imagine what this band is like live. ~ Thom Jurek



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