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Lester Bowie, co-founder of the Art Ensemble of Chicago and one of the leading lights of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, was a legendary trumpeter known for his adventurous and often humourous music. Beneath this veneer was his avant-garde, deeply Africanized vision for jazz.
Referencing everything that the trumpeter stood for, composer and arranger David Sanford empowers his big band to evoke the spirit of Bowie through high-octane performances on A Prayer for Lester Bowie. Each of eight exquisite charts is especially rewarding for the quality of the performance, advanced by stellar soloists featuring trumpeters Hugh Ragin and Brad Goode, saxophonists Anna Webber and Marc Phaneuf, trombonists Jim Messbauer and Ben Herrington among several other virtuoso musicians.
While the centrepiece of the album is the song that gives it its title, written by – and featuring – Ragin on trumpet, the other charts are equal, in the fabulous richness of orchestral texture, to the album’s principal song. In fact, about three of the most miraculous minutes of the album can be heard on popit (also featuring Ragin) as well as the balletic Woman in Shadows and the dark-toned Soldier and the CEO. Throughout the repertoire on this recording the musical chemistry between the musicians is seamlessly intuitive. Woodwinds, brass and rhythm sections sparkle in ensemble with eloquence and vigour while judiciously placed solo movements are always poetically declaimed.