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In Remembrance of: Benjamin Henry, Eva Burrell, Eric Paul Jackson, Bertha Smith, Leon Guitry, Jackie Hall
By Richard Henry on November 26, 2010

Alex Coke, born in Dallas, Texas, an original member of the Creative Opportunity Orchestra, has performed with Tina Marsh in various formations for 22 years. For ten years he played and recorded with the internationally renowned Dutch jazz group, the Willem Breuker Kollektief. His various bands have included New Visions, the Live Action Brass Band, the Leadbelly Legacy Band, The Alex Coke/Paul Bollenback Duo, Jamad, and his post-bop quintet, The Worthy Constituents, a collaboration with longtime partner, pianist Rich Harney with Martin Banks on trumpet. He has worked with Gerald Wilson, Charles Tolliver, James Polk, Jay Rozen, the Paradise Regained Orchestra and the Trio Henk de Jonge. He can also be heard with the John Jordan Trio, the Mysterious Quartet From Helsinki featuring Chris Duarte, and Rob Verdurmen's Double Drummer Bill.

In the opening track The Luminous Dark, two instruments emerge at the beginning of this piece, while the percussion creates another layer of exceptional sound. You can hear a recurring motif on one of the instruments. A fluttering effect is heard and you can also hear the skilled virtuosity as this tune continues. Different kinds of exciting articulation is heard as well. The soprano saxophone and afrifone create an outstanding variety of patterns in an improvisational way. Itís amazing how the soloists are improvising but still manage to sound well together.

The flute and other stringed instruments are featured in the third track, Strings to the Sahel. The incredible momentum kicks in creating a wonderful rhythmic machine. Melodic notes are heard in stunning fashion on the flute. The strings keep the overall tonality sustained throughout this tune. Spectacular lines played on the bass flute seems to have unlimited possibilities. A constant ostinato is heard throughout this piece. All of the instruments combine to form an intense, exciting musical journey.

A xylophone and marimba begin this tune as they play by themselves and are shortly joined by the percussion in the fifth track, Bridges and Planks. The xylophone and marimba produce a characteristic, recurring pattern. The flute is effortlessly improvising with clear tones. It seems as if the rhythm provides an ostinato type of accompaniment for the flute while the xylophone and marimba give you a tonal layer of support for the flute to blend with. This tune is an excellent rhythmic fest.

Suspended Gaze, which is the albumís sixth track is a more subdued tune that incorporates an effective mystical sound. The flute has a smooth, solemn sound that you can feel. Despite the slower pace, the flute still performs with intensity and a continuous energy. The gyili is heard later as the prominent sound. A magical, spiritual mood is created in this tune by the percussion, xylophone and marimba. The atmosphere in this piece is dark, mystical and astonishingly pleasant.

This album created a type of atmosphere that takes you on an amazing cultural journal. There was a remarkable assortment of instruments from other cultures that mixed together to create an awesome effect. The music on this album really stimulates your imagination with incredible runs, rhythms and interesting tonal textures. Ethnic music blends very well with the mind bending improvisations. Alex Coke does a wonderful job of taking this daring approach to music. If you like unique, cultural music inspired by jazz, then this is the album for you. I highly recommend it.

For more information about Alex Coke go here:

Topographies of the Dark CD Review
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