Ernest Dawkins New Horizons Ensemble

Mean Ameen

BY David DacksPublished Dec 1, 2004

Mean Ameen is the New Horizons Ensemble’s tribute to their late trumpet player Ameen Muhammad, with whom leader Ernest Dawkins grew up and played in the AACM and beyond. The New Horizons Ensemble makes hard swinging jazz with lots of twists and turns seem easy. They’re equal parts groove, freedom and dissonance capable of captivating the mind while moving the body. Each player has an ability to shape great melodies with advanced sound shaping techniques that are so characteristic of the AACM tradition. In a way this kind of music is the mainstream in Chicago, as people have been making it for up to 40 years. "3D" is a great example; with its funky 6/8 bass line, it simmers for 15 minutes of feverish soloing and chunky group riffs. "The Messenger," a tribute to Art Blakey, is as hard a groove as I've heard all year, although at 13 minutes it threatens to overstay its welcome with its overly extended solos. Fortunately, the solos are always interesting, which is good, because there are a lot of them. Perhaps more collective improvisation or more active horn charts would give a bit more body to these extended pieces; certainly the last track, "Buster and the Search for Human Genome,” benefits from them. Nonetheless, this is yet another fine expression of the Chicago tradition.

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