The Bennie Maupin Ensemble – Penumbra
The Bennie Maupin Ensemble
(Cryptogramophone – 2006)
by Paula Edelstein
PENUMBRA is the first new recording from woodwind virtuoso and master improviser Bennie Maupin in eight years. Maupin, who co-founded Herbie Hancock’s seminal band, The Headhunters also played in his Mwandishi band. However, Maupin, who went on to receive critical acclaim for his atmospheric bass clarinet playing on Miles Davis’ BITCHES BREW, ON THE CORNER and BIG FUN recordings, has always tested the waters, pushed the envelope and expanded his musical languages. In addition to his bass clarinet performance, Maupin plays the tenor & soprano saxophones, the alto flute and the piano! As a result, this stellar CD is overflowing with Maupin’s multi-instrumental finesse and musical personality. PENUMBRA opens with “Neophilia 2006” which spotlights a brilliant incarnation of Maupin’s unique bass clarinet sound. Accompanied by Darek “Oles” Oleszkiewicz on bass, Michael Stephans on drums, and Daryl Munyungo Jackson on percussion, this song represents Maupin’s depth and density on the bass clarinet with amazing purity.
On “Penumbra” Maupin’s lighter, melodic flute floats on the outer shadows of the ensembles darker percussive shadings. Darek Oleszkiewicz’s resonant bass lines blend imperceptibly with Daryl Jackson’s percussive heartbeats and Maupin’s tantalizing sonics. “Equal Justice” features Maupin on acoustic piano. This song is not only beautiful, but a pensive reminder of his compositional integrity. Overall, PENUMBRA is an incredibly imaginative performance and well worth the wait. The Bennie Maupin Ensemble’s creativity should be lauded for its superb originality and their unique improvisations. An important offering by one of America’s jazz masters.