Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sly5thAve's Marvelous Akuma

Akuma (Truth Revolution Records) is the debut recording of Sly5thAve (aka Sylvester Uzoma Onyejiaka II). The release of Akuma comes as the Nigerian born, New York- based saxophonist came off a national tour with Prince. Based in New York, Akuma represents an effort the synthesize his Nigerian roots with jazz, soul and global music for an impressive debut displaying considerable maturity in his compositions, arrangements and his playing.

The core band includes Sly5thAve (Sax); Ross Pederson (Drums); Daniel Foose (Bass); Hajime Yoshida (Electric Guitar); Keita Ogawa (Percussion); and Jay Jennings (Trumpet). Appearing on various selections include Brad Williams (Acoustic Guitar and producer of the recording); Cory Henry (of Snarky Puppy on Piano and Wurlitzer) Phil Lassiter (Trumpet); John Leadbetter (Flute), Zach Brock (Violin), Denitia Odigie (voice).

The performances of Sly5thAve’s compositions bring together a memorable melodic lines, charged rhythm sections, intriguing horn voicing, thoughtful, often energetic solos throughout and a marvelous display of dynamics throughout. The opening three part Suite For Ogbuefi includes a wonderful solo from guitarist Yoshida the builds in intensity before the leader teaks over with some forceful playing that takes the performance up a notch. With Henry’s marvelous playing on the Wurlitzer, and Foose a solid anchor one can appreciate the imaginative coloring that Pederson adds here.

The title track displays some of the leader’s African roots in its theme and the rhythmic core of it. Leadbetter’s flute is added for musical coloring while Jennings takes the initial solo with some bright, interesting playing that suggests a definite familiarity with the likes of Woody Shaw and Freddie Hubbard. “Bach” opens with the leader playing unaccompanied before the ensemble enters playing very lightly under Brock’s hot, soaring violin that segues into a nice trumpet. Security has a lively, danceable groove and a strong piano solo. Deme features lovely voice and showcases Yoshida’s fleet playing.

Road to Abuja is a percussive introduction to Abuja with its its mix of propulsive percussive rhythms, and unison horn passages to frame the solos by Yoshida’s single note playing; and conversational, explosive, interplay between Sly5thAve and Jennings. It is an understatement to say Akuma is an auspicious debut given the strong and memorable playing that will leave a strong impression on listeners. It is a marvelous and very contemporary recording.

I received my copy from a publicist. Here is a video trailer for this release.

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