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Bennie Maupin - The Jewel in the Lotus CD (album) cover


Bennie Maupin


Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.26 | 23 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

5 stars Recorded after the formal breakup of Herbie's Mwandishi septet, The Jewel in The Lotus harnesses the talents of over half of that septet in Bennie, Herbie, Buster Williams, and Billy Hart but expresses a musical direction quite different than any of the Mwandishi albums (three under Herbie Hancock's name, two under that of trumpeter Eddie Henderson). First of all, the album was produced and released by Manfred Eicher's new ECM label (which leads to expectations of impeccable sound quality), while also being recorded in New York City's Record Plant.

1. "Ensenada" (8:05) fast-paced static two-note bass line and wind chime-like percussion instruments open this song until the reset pause at the 95-second mark signals the arrival of flutes and piano. A song that reminds me of some of Mahavishnu John McLaughlin's more sedate spiritual-oriented songs as well as some of Chick Corea and Gary Burton's duets. At 4:35 there is another reset pause which is then followed by a key change when the instrumentalists resume their wind-chime nature imitation. I really love this song! (14.5/15)

2. "Mappo" (8:25) Bennie's flute leads this one as trumpet, bowed double bass, delicate drum play (from both drummers) and additional percussion inputs support. In the third minute the band starts to establish a kind of tense, dour, even cinematically-frightening motif but then backs off. This is so much like the future music of avant gard pioneers UNIVERS ZERO and PRESENT! But then Latin hand drums enter totally wiping away the cinematic tension, redirecting the tension into some free-jazz kind of play. Even Herbie's discordant piano play in the fifth and sixth minutes (or Buster Williams and Bill Summers' wild play) seem only to add to the tense 20th Century classical music feeling of this. This feels like a very wise and mature composition! Wow! (19/20)

3. "Excursion" (4:47) starts out sounding as if we're in some high mountain Tibetan monastery with the horns, reverberating gongs, glockenspiel, tuned percussion, prayer-like vocalisations, piccolo, bassoon, and, later, discordant and free-for-all double bass riffs, piano hits, and snare and drum fills. The cacophonous sound just builds and thickens the further the song runs until the end when recorder and single-voice vocal chant are left to end the song. Wow! What a journey this man is taking us on! (9/10)

4. "Past + Present = Future" (1:45) piano, distant snare and shaken percussives, long, bowed double bass notes, and multiple flute and reed instruments present this lovely little interlude. (4.75/5)

5. "The Jewel In The Lotus" (9:57) spacey electric piano (with fast-panning reverb) with shaker percussives open this while reed instruments, double bass sprays, delicate cymbal play, and marimba gradually set the stage for Bennie's soprano sax and other reed instruments to slowly, subtly set a melody. I am so impressed with the design of this music! And the discipline it takes to perform it. (And I know from second-hand sources that Bennie is a very exacting, very demanding band leader.) Once Bennie is in front, the music pretty well established and solidified, it kind of loses its appeal to me as it becomes less about mystery and melody and more about continuing the floatability. The individual instrumental choices and contributions are interesting yet they're often so soft and subtle that they do more to deflect my attention off into some tangential place of dreamy sensuality. I hate to detract from the ability to perform such a wonderful (and wondrous) feat, but I kind of want to stay engaged with the song. (17.66667/20)

6. "Winds Of Change" (1:25) multiple reed instruments performing together, in attempted unison. (4.5/5)

7. "Song For Tracie Dixon Summers" (5:14) a lot of space--some times quite empty--around which Bennie and company add small whorls and twists of movement--until the third minute when Bennie's soprano sax leads Herbie, Buster, Billy, and the percussionists into something slightly more definitive and organized. There's just so much space! I usually love spacious music like this but this one is almost too reliant on the long decays of instrumental sound as to not represent music but rather act as a reminder of what the world would be like without music. Interesting! (8.75/10)

8. "Past Is Past" (3:52) Bennie's plaintive, languid soprano sax in duet with Herbie's full piano prowess--at least for the first 90-seconds, then triangle, shaker, timpani, and other hand percussion instruments (and background harmonizing flutes) join the flow (which is pretty much a drawn out three-chord flow). The drummers get to join in--as only accenting percussionists--in the final minute. (8.875/10)

Total time: 43:37

A surprisingly transportive, spiritual experience comes out of listening to this album each time I do so. This is, in my opinion, no small feat. In fact, I would argue that it might take some artists a lifetime to achieve such an effect through their art.

A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of quite remarkably mature song compositions performed by the remnants of the Mwandishi lineup months after the last Mwandishi session wrapped up.

BrufordFreak | 5/5 |


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