8 Songs, 1 Hour 1 Minute

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Ratings and Reviews

5.0 out of 5
1 Rating

1 Rating

Leo Zaide ,

Percolating, stimulating, motor-booty activatin'

Percolating, stimulating and motor- booty activatin’ are ways to rightfully describe the infectious music found on Aaron Whitby’s debut album as a bandleader. After proper dues-paying decades as a supportive keyboardist, arranger, co-writer, and studio cohort for a gang of noteworthy artists—George Clinton, Randy Brecker, Lisa Fischer, his brilliant life- partner Martha Redbone among them—Whitby emerges on Cousin From Another Planet as a musician of compositional range and depth and fecund instrumental prowess in his own right.

The album’s rumprollin’ opener Sleeping Giant, grooves with intentions slinky and bulbous, not least thanks to the mucho phat and Mutronically enhanced bass work of longtime colleague and collaborator Fred Cash—a low end specialist of well-known invention and bumptiousness. Whitby serves us the album’s big picture in bite size portions here —a funk-da-fied jam session feel undergirding tight, knotty jazz-smart progressions. In a positive and confident show of roots Whitby also revises Herbie Hancock’s modern classic of graceful angularity and stomp, Eye of The Hurricane. His re-interpretive take fuses VSOP and Headhunters Herbie into a recombinant funky freebopping whole. This jawn rides on the nimble bass handles of Jerome Harris, a veteran wrangler of complex changes. Whitby’s arrangement also generates ample room for saxophonist Keith Loftis, violinist Charles Burnham and drummer Rodney Holmes to steam, sear and shred the walls of the place. The album’s title track pays homage to John Styles Afrofuturist film classic ‘Brother From Another Planet’ while lyrically enfolding Whitby’s sense of himself as an immigrant, radical fellow traveler and musical messenger on a righteous mission—artistic engagement in justice work within his core adopted, embracing communities, Black and indigenous America. Whitby gives us his most ebullient and house-rocking acoustic piano work on ‘Cousin’—an artful lesson in jabbing economy and abstract butt-smack. The engaging journey here also includes Walking With Z (re Whitby’s beloved tween son Zach), a rollicking admixture of Ellingtonian romanticism and roadhouse earthquake. Burnham’s wah-wah fiddling shines in the cut and a flurry of tender mercies roll out from under of the fingers of the leader in loving dad mode. We’d also direct your attention to the collection’s closer, Escape Route which drives through percussive rhythm changes redolent of the best 70s fusion and prog—a time in music massively inspiring to those of Whitby (and this writer’s) generation—and gives welcome rise to a signature Fender Rhodes excursion by Whitby that leaves us begging for more.

With its well divvied up collages of serious, compositional construction and lowdown improvisational bravura, Whitby’s Cousin From Another Planet joins the ranks of this era’s hardiest re-dedications and festival-tent revival of soulful and exploratory jam-gnocity. May this music circuitously surge its backsliding way up and down your gluteus and into your oblongata again and again.

Greg Tate - Liner Notes