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The very heart of the muse

Bad Mouth
Bad Mouth
By Conjure

American Clavé: 2006

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This review first appeared in Turbula in December 2006.

Not a static combo, but instead a rotating cast of producer Kip Hanrahan's favorite musicians, Conjure's consistency comes from the fact that Hanrahan only brings it back into being for the purpose of setting music behind the words of poet Ishmael Reed.

That 2006 brought us a two-disc third entry in the Conjure catalog is surely a blessing; that it numbers among its members this go-round avant garde saxophonist David Murray and funk guitarist Leo Nocentelli and bluesman Alvin Youngblood Hart and jazz violinist Billy Bang and Cuban percussionists Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez and Robby Ameen offers us as close to a guarantee as life in this universe can that the music and Reed's words will combine to excite and provoke and anger and calm.

The inclusion of Hart, in particular, lends this album a blues patina the two earlier Conjure projects did not have. Of course, as with anything Hanrahan touches, there is the clavé, that Latin Caribbean beat with deep African roots that gets to the very heart of the music and centers it, providing not so much an anchor as a magnetic pole to hold the music together.

Because it is loose, the music here. Like Reed's poetry, it pulses with subconscious energy, cellular energy, molecular energy. There are ideas here that cannot be thought, but only felt; concepts that cannot be expressed, but only dreamed, perhaps, or described by a poet. Or played by Conjure.

Reed's poetry, Hanrahan's clavé, they hold this music together, allow it to dance, to flicker, to stab into the darkness.