ALVIN BATISTE: No one could have imagined that such a life-affirming disc…

Date: 12.27.2007
Publication: Hartford Courant
Author: Owen McNally

No one could have imagined that such a life-affirming disc as this would mark the final testament of the progressive New Orleans clarinetist Alvin Batiste, who died this year at 74.

Making a joyful noise unto the Lord, Batiste struts his genre-busting mastery of everything from high-flying modernism to the stompin’, Mardi Gras-like jubilance of the session’s grand finale.

Whether groovin’ on originals or soaring lyrically on the ballad “Skylark,” this master chef of modern New Orleans musical fare avoids easy cliches as if they were food poisoning.

An ecumenical figure, Batiste synthesized his deeply cherished Crescent City roots with an ever forward-looking view as a composer, instrumentalist, noted educator, cultural philosopher and heroic civil rights advocate.

A cosmopolitan clarinetist, he was right at home improvising with everyone from Guitar Slim and Ray Charles to Ornette Coleman and David Murray.

Two of the maestro’s former star pupils, saxophonist Branford Marsalis and drummer Herlin Riley, sit-in, practicing the Big Easy’s hallowed tradition of mentor and proteges jamming together as equals, even as blood brothers.

If you’re hungering for a delicious, steamy bowl of New Orleans jazz gumbo, skip right ahead to the CD’s celebratory finale. It sizzles with contemporary New Orleans parade rhythms, communal spirit and an irrepressible joy whose ancestral links stretch all the way back to ancient Africa.

Submitted by Ben on December 27th, 2007 — 01:00am