Personnel: Max Wild (alto saxophone); Jesse Lewis (guitar); Soren Moller (piano, keyboards); Obed Calvaire (drums).
Audio Mixer: Juan Pablo Alcaro.
Recording information: Kampo Cultural Center, New York, NY (04/21/2008-04/22/2008); Studios de la Seine, Paris (04/21/2008-04/22/2008); Zampol Productions (04/21/2008-04/22/2008).
Photographer: Carsten Fleck.
Alto saxophonist Max Wild has not so much hit on a formulaic brand of Afro-beat songs as he is exploring different ways to phrase them. Hovering on the edge without teetering over the brink, Wild's angular and tart sweet horn is the foundation for his bandmates to scurry around, combining contemporary jazz with village tribal and joy-filled dance music not too far removed from Nigerian highlife -- think King Sunny Ade meets a subdued Dudu Pukwana. Vocals of Sam Mtukudzi dominate most of the songs, and he's quite effusive in delivering an African message of salvation, emancipation, and exuberance. Though not the only vocal source, Mtukudzi is joined by Chiwoniso and Alicia Olatuja on select tracks, and the ladies lead on select tracks. Keyboardist Soren Moller is also a distinct force, as is guitarist Jesse Lewis on the rhythmic and melodic end of things. The angular funk of "Kwatinobva" sets a tone for the rest of the program, steeped in typical guitar/horn-based call and response with the singers, while polyrhythms feed the fire of "Kuvakidzana" with a mbira/thumb piano component. There's straight, beat-oriented music, some pop-styled tunes, spiritual material, and even a few lyrics sung in English. Closest to home, wood whistles or a recorder employed by Wild identifies "In Your World," a pretty piece featuring layers of sound and a somewhat minimalist approach. Help from ObliqSound stablemate bassists Michael Olatuja (electric) and Massimo Biolcati (upright acoustic) keep the music anchored in a rhythm & blues base, solidly rooted in Afro-centric trans-continentalism. Wild's distinctive sax is certainly the straw that stirs this potentate, a session loaded to the brim with good feelings and a whole lot of fun. ~ Michael G. Nastos