Review: Robert Hurst "Bob: A Palindrome"

July 1, 2013
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For his sixth CD, Robert Hurst, best-known for his work with Wynton and Branford Marsalis (including the Tonight Show), delivers a contender for contemporary jazz record of the year—made even more impressive given that the tracks were recorded in 2001, but not released, due to 9/11 and Hurst’s rapid rise to first-call sideman status in jazz. Surrounded by Branford, Robert Glapser, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Marcus Belgrave, and Bennie Maupin, Hurst delves deep with his compositions, staying mostly on the Latin/Afro-jazz side rhythmically, while enhancing his probing melodies via the stark colors of his bowed upright, Maupin’s bass clarinet, Belgrave’s flugelhorn, and Glaspers’ Fender Rhodes. The other key is the band’s collective radar beneath the solos, enabling them to support, lead, dialogue, and take curves like a racecar (sorry, I couldn’t resist getting those three palindromes in there!). The showpiece is Hurst’s Ellington-esque, three-part “Middle Passage Suite,” and the equally Duke-ish “Little Queen,” but dig where the unit takes funk and group improv on “Jamming—a.k.a. Ichabad.”

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