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The Muffins with Marshall Allen & Knoel Scott — Loveletter #2 "The Ra Sessions"
(HOB002, 2005, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2006-05-01
What does one get when The Muffins mix it up with two great sax players (Marshall Allen and Knoel Scott) from Sun Ra’s Arkestra? That’s right, not two – but four sax players, plus bass and drums, in seven semi-structured and free improvisational jazz blowouts: Nothing seems to be composed in this setting, unless composed on the spot, yet not surprisingly this comes off as a very expressive and inspired workout for the most part, and overall quite listenable, albeit occasionally chaotic. Saxophobes need not apply, but anyone who enjoys the Muffins early material, or even their regular releases of late (Bandwidth, Double Negative) will find a touch of this adventurous free improv spirit in all of their music, just not so much of it all at once. The six players work together well, and while the groove seems to be constantly turning and twisting, and interplay seems to constantly shift among the several layers of woodwinds, there’s still plenty here to sink your teeth into and tap your foot to. While the saxes tend to dominate the proceedings, a groovy and wicked wah-wah guitar solo and sweet flute melody that follows it are the highlights of “Chickenhead,” the album’s longest track. Both Muffins and Arkestra fans – and fans of wind-driven jazz improv in general will find this collection worthwhile.
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