New Air: Achtud El Buod (Children's Song)


Achtud El Buod (Children's Song)


New Air Featuring Cassandra Wilson


Air Show No. 1 (Black Saint 0099)

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Henry Threadgill (alto sax), Fred Hopkins (bass),

Pheeroan akLaff (drums)


Composed by Henry Threadgill


Recorded: Milano, June 2 or 3, 1986


Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

The trio Air, with saxophonist Henry Threadgill, bassist Fred Hopkins, and drummer Steve McCall, was one of the great avant-garde groups of the '70s and early '80s. When McCall left the band, he was replaced by Pheeroan akLaff, and the trio was rechristened New Air. The latter group, though fine, was not quite as distinguished. For good reason: Hopkins and McCall formed one of the great jazz rhythm sections. Besides being remarkably creative and resourceful on their own, they had played together for a long time and thus shared a close musical bond. AkLaff, on the other hand, while a tremendous drummer, seems not to have had as good a rapport with Hopkins. He was also a heavier, less colorful and more groove-oriented drummer than McCall, who had a more subtle touch and flexible sense of time.

That said, "Achtud El Buod" suits akLaff's strengths well. A rocking, high-spirited shuffle whose title is (almost) a backward-spelling of "Double Dutch", the children's jump rope game, the tune swings like mad. AkLaff gets a very tight sound out of his kit, giving even his loosest passages a funky, in-the-pocket feel. The late Hopkins was the total package. Few jazz bassists have combined soul, imagination, and chops so successfully. His playing here is remarkably vocalic, a characteristic his playing shares with Threadgill (McCall had it, too; akLaff, not so much). On alto, Threadgill plays like the world's hippest soul singer; his harmonically venturesome lines are never less than exhilarating. While a fan of the original Air can be expected to listen to this music with a sense of loss, this is nevertheless very good in its own right.

Reviewer: Chris Kelsey

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