Jan P. Dennis November 2001
Marionettes on a High Wire Baikida Carroll A Multifaceted
Gem, The title's kinda weird. Think about it. What does it
mean? Puppets on a tightrope? What are they doing up there?
Dancing? That's how I think of it. And, strangely, it's perfectly
suited to the marvelous music on this disc, which dances through
my head, all jingly-jangly, whenever I put it on, and often
when I don't.
group, which is Carroll's working band, seems nearly telepathic.
The ensemble playing throughout electrifies. Carroll plays
the trumpet like no one I know of. He's got chops to burn,
which are fabulously on display whenever he solos, but what
really strikes me as unique is his tone, which is dark and
buttery-slippery, yet somehow perfectly articulated. He gets
more warmth from his horn than any trumpeter I've ever heard,
yet he's incredible nimble and has perfect timing and pitch.
Adegoke Steve Colson on piano is masterful, comping with thick
chords, sometimes launching into controlled frenzy on his
solos, other times playing complex yet compelling single line
phrases. Those bass bombs bursting from the speakers come
courtesy of the formidable Michael Formanek. Veteran drummer
Pheeroan akLaff, who can be overly busy, plays better than
I've ever heard him. Erica Lindsay on tenor sax has greatly
matured since I last encountered her.
The music is all over the map, which is a good thing, in my
view. There's a stunningly beautiful ballad (Miss Julie),
deconstructed carnival music (the title cut), an engaging
waltz (Our Say), a Latin-tinged post-bop number that bubbles
along cheerfully (Ebullient Secrets), an out-and-out burner
(A Thrill a Minute) that showcases the band's incredible musicianship
with Carroll's solo alone worth the price of admission, but
everyone really struts their stuff. I don't even generally
like this kind of virtuoso number, but there's a lot more
going on here than mere speed. Flamboye, a tribute to the
late, great Julius Hemphill, is flamboyant, all right, a very
extroverted modernist piece with a killer drum solo from Pheeroan.
Down Under sounds like it's going five directions at once,
all the while making perfect sense.
kind of modern eclectic jazz--hip, worldly wise, yet with
an underlying warmth and accessibility--is what many artists
strive for but few achieve.
In sum, this is one marvelous
disc, certainly one of the absolute best of 2001.