& SOUNDS OF THE CITY
"The Exchange" marks the recording debut of reedman Antonio Parker's world beat group Sounds of the City, an ensemble that plays music ranging from the adventurous to the accessible.
How adventurous? Several of the best tracks were inspired by Parker's travels throughout Africa. How accessible? Let's put it this way: the band's mid-album reprise of "Yesterday," complete with shimmering chimes and pining soprano sax, could warm the heart of a Kenny G fan.
The smooth jazz rendering of the Beatles tune has a certain allure beyond its overtaxed melody, thanks primarily to guitarist Vinny Valentino's deft touch, but the album's highlights surface elsewhere: on "Fela's Shrine," with its serpentine melody and joyous pulse; "Nigerian Folk Song," a revolving soprano-limned theme wed to clattering percussion; and "Sounds of the City," which conjures the "Spain"-era sound of Chick Corea's early fusion forays and provides an expansive showcase for Valentino, flutist Jamal Brown and pianist Vince Evans. Adding to the album's spiritual and percussive thrust are "Prayer for Africa," beautifully sung by Imani, and "Soweto," a rhythmically contagious homage featuring Parker on alto sax.
Among the large cast of local musicians contributing to the album's color, verve and textures are drummers Keith Killgo and Lenny Robinson, percussionist Sam Turner, bassist Yusef Chisholm and vocalist Patrick De Santos. Balancing Parker's stated goals -- broad appeal and artistic integrity -- isn't easy, but "Exchange" succeeds far more often than not.
-- Mike Joyce
Appearing Friday and Saturday at Twins Jazz. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Antonio Parker & Sounds of the City, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8105. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)