Jewel In The Lotus [ECM, 1974]
Slow Traffic To The Right [Polygram, 1977]
Moonscapes [Mercury, 1978]
Driving While Black (with Dr. Patrick Gleeson) [Intuition, 1998]
Driving While Black may be truer to the original spirit of classic Sextant era experiments than the new Headhunter's release, but it still leaves me wanting more. Gleeson's electronics work is tasteful and spacious but his programmed rhythms are somewhat stiff. Maupin's playing is pretty slick but features enough effects to give it that nice spacey feel and keep things interesting. [LB]
With a title such as Driving While Black, I'd hoped for a more ferocious document, and if the first few cuts aren't necessarily timid, they do remain fairly gentle. While some tracks manage to maintain a funky meter despite the machine limitations, I can't help but imagine how a live percussionist could've kicked this music into a far deeper orbit. Oh yeah, the ubiquitous drum'n'bass datestamp is track 3. The second half of the CD is an improvement, especially "Miles To Go", a fine slice of digital astrojazz which somehow manages to transcend its programmed percussion and pay subtle homage to "Rated X." This album seems to slip off the tracks in the same manner as Frederic Galliano's Espaces Baroques, a record which also possesses some exquisite playing but is ultimately tainted by uninspiring rhythmic bed tracks. [DW]
Bennie's new album 'Penumbra' (2006) is excellent. It finds him playing melodic bass clarinet, alto sax and flute over simple grooves provided by bass, drums and percussion. Sounds like it could have been on ECM and is wondefully recorded. No electronics but still cosmic and mellow.
Other than that, I'd like to add that will 'Moonscapes' has the better title, it's really like a watered-down re-hash of 'Slow Traffic to the Right' and the only one of Bennie's albums not worth seeking out. 'Slow Traffic to the Right' will appeal to fans of Herbies 'Headhunters' album, and it's a darn shame it's not available on CD as of 2/2007.
A little slicker than "slow traffic", "Moonscapes" is also the logical follow up. Lots of nice analog keys and "a promise kept" has that trademark thing where his bass clarinet is skanking along with bass.
Jewel in the Lotus is an epic ambient album with transcendant sounds from Bennie's horns.
Slow Traffic to the Right has the killer groover "It Remains to be Seen", over eight minutes of spaced out funk. A number of Mwandishi cast members pop up here, including Eddie Henderson and Julian Priester and there is some great keyboard work from Patrice Rushen who drifts in and out of the mix at just the right moments.
[Jimmy Lo Santo]