All Music Guide... David Adler
With Marionettes on a High Wire, veteran avant-garde trumpeter
Baikida Carroll joins the roster of OmniTone Records, which
since 1999 has fast become synonymous with quality forward-thinking
jazz. Joining Carroll are Erica Lindsay on tenor sax, Adegoke
Steve Colson on piano, Michael Formanek on bass, and Pheeroan
akLaff on drums.
There's a beautiful kind of daring in the music -- a rough
tenderness in Carroll's trumpet tone, a palpable spiritual
commitment from all the players involved. Leading off with
"Ebullient Secrets," Carroll and his group unleash a highly
adventurous sound while remaining within certain jazz parameters:
planned solo rotation, distinct harmony and form, straight
swing tempo. This more straightforward aspect of Carroll's
writing style comes through as well on the ballad "Miss Julie,"
on the moody bossa "Down Under," and on two waltzes, "Our
Say" and "Velma." But Carroll's concepts of dissonance, which
extend well into the rhythmic arena, give several tracks a
freshness and multi-dimensionality that is truly rare. Listen
to Colson's piano comping behind Lindsay's tenor solo on "Griot's
Last Dance" (written in memory of Don Cherry) for a good example
of the uncentered yet perfectly coherent logic of Carroll's
Other highlights along these lines include the fast-swinging
modalism of "A Thrill a Minute," the Julius Hemphill tribute
"Flamboye," and the evocative title track, which features
Formanek and akLaff in engaging, unpredictable combinations.
Carroll composed "Miss Julie" for a staging of the Strindberg
play of the same name, and he wrote both "Our Say" and "Cab"
for Emily Mann's Tony Award-winning play Having Our Say.
- David R. Adler