(Tim Armacost – tenor and soprano sax, alto flute; Bruce Bart – piano; Ray Spiegel, tabla; Ugonna Okegwo – bass; Eddie Henderson – trumpet, flugelhorn; Billy Hart – drums; + unnamed others)
One hesitates to dub Tim Armacost a journeyman, what with his handful of solo discs and extensive sideman outings, but the truth is, he hasn’t before this made a disc of this consequence.
What changes on Rhythm & Transformation? Simply, it all comes together for Mr. Armacost. Really, no one can account for these serendipitous happenings, although this story—relative unknown jazzman hits one out of the park—isn’t all that unusual. Simply put, it’s critical mass, aka, the “hundredth monkey phenomenon.” Regarding the latter, anthropologists noticed that when enough monkeys began washing their food before consumption on remote Pacific Islands, the practice mysteriously spread across scores of miles to other islands. Just so, sometimes when jazz laborers ply their estimable trade often enough, something magical happens: they produce Jazz of Significance.
Tim Armacost’s venture into what I call world-jazz or jazz-beat has produced a record that compels multiple listenings and comparisons with some of the best practitioners in the genre: Egberto Gismonti, Omar Sosa, and Cyro Baptista. My view is that when a creditable artist such as Mr. Armacost ventures into world-jazz waters with his head on straight, a unique concept, and accompanied by like-minded colleagues, often the results are nothing short of spectacular.
And that’s the case here. This is an instance of a 15-year overnight sensation, for that is time period in which the leader has been interested in the rhythms and music of India. Having spent a year in New Dehli studying with tabla master Vijay Ateet and then receiving a grant from Chamber Music America, Armacost prepared the suite, Rhythm & Transformation which debuted at Washington, D.C., Blues Alley in 2004 and then at the Jazz Gallery in Tribeca, NY. After listening to the tapes, he decided he wanted to record this music with other pieces added. Hence, we have Rhythm & Transformation, Armacost’s first totally Indian/jazz amalgam.
What we have here is muscular jazz imbued with authentic Indian rhythms and sensibilities. Operating in aesthetic waters similar to George Brooks, there’s a definite shared vibe but with a substantially more amped quality. With the fascinating rhythms of Armacost originals “Nimble Pani,” “Indian News,” and the four numbers comprising the “Rhythm and Transformation Suite,” Armacost, together with his working band plus tabla player Ray Spiegel, has created one of the more gripping jazz discs of 2008.
TrackList: After Ohnedaruth, Nimble Pani, While My Lady Sleeps, Indian News, Circular Interlude, Rhythm and Transformation Suite: Monolith, Stereo Blue, 3 x 3 x 3, and Four Happy Vows, Circular Postlude
– Jan P. Dennis