KIP HANRAHAN daydreams out loud, which you might expect from someone who is both a musician and a filmmaker. He thinks up aural possibilities and then pursues them, using the best musicians New York has to offer, letting them feed on one another's talents and energies. That process was exuberantly evident on 1983's "Desire Develops an Edge," a two-record whirlwind of cross-cultural rhythms and intensely personal rhymes that fused jazz, Latin and rock currents.
Hanrahan's latest project is "Conjure," music set to texts by the black writer Ishmael Reed. Once again, Hanrahan is a combination producer/director whose main job seems to be providing an inspirational habitat for the likes of David Murray, Carla Bley, Steve Swallow, Taj Mahal, Carman Moore, Allen Toussaint and Lester Bowie, all of whom have joined Hanrahan in writing the music that frames Reed's real/surreal, but always vivid, universe. This is poetry that sings, music that makes you think.
Not surprisingly, there are as many distinct musical flavors as composers, ranging from the Bayou funk of Murray's "Jes' Crew" and the semi-formalized turn-of-the century "Oakland Blues" by Moore to Taj Mahal's urban funkdown, "Betty Ball's Blues," and a pair of straight recitations by Reed himself.
One of the most intriguing cuts is Swallow's languid "Dualism (1)," which sounds like a baroque version of a New Orleans funeral march. Taj Mahal handles most of the singing, and his sly, supple energies inform Reed's equally supple and earthy texts with a raucous urgency, especially on the bluesier themes.
The cast of players is typically astounding: Besides the composers, music is made by those known (Olu Dara's trumpet and David Murray's saxophone are exemplary throughout) and those who should be better known (particularly the Haitian guitarist Elysee Pyronneau and percussionist Milton Cirdona). In "Rhythm in Philosophy," Reed says that "the universe is a spiraling big band in a polka-dotted speakeasy / effusively generating new light every one-night stand." Hanrahan and his friends embody that last line perfectly.
KIP HANRAHAN -- "Conjure: Music for the texts of Ishmael Reed" (American Clave 1006); the Kip Hanrahan/Jack Bruce Big Band -- featuring John Scofield, Anton Fier, Steve Swallow, Milton Cardona and others -- appearing Friday at the 9:30 Club.