It's not a recording that's a decade in the making, but it's been fermenting for about that long.
Saxophonist David Rogers has immersed himself in the music and culture of far-flung parts of the world where he's lived, like Southeast Asia and West Africa, and incorporated those influences into American jazz. On the eve of a two year stay in Ghana to soak in the music there, Rogers assembled for the recording of a half dozen of his compositions a Detroit-based quintet that included drums (Gerald Cleaver), acoustic bass (Marion Hayden), vibraphone/percussion (Mark Stone) and the since widely acclaimed piano of one Craig Taborn.
Since that time, Rogers has immersed himself in African music as well as theater, dance, and classical more than in jazz, but his recent return to that music form has provided the catalyst for Jumbie Records (a label Rogers co-founded) to finally take these six long-unreleased recordings out of the vault.
The World Is Not Your Home is one of a long line of performances that meld the irresistible primal rhythms and sounds of world music with the sophistication and nuances of American jazz. But few American jazz musicians outside of Randy Weston have truly immersed themselves in songs and rhythms of Africa, the Caribbean and other far-flung places on this earth like David Rogers. And while his palette has expanded a great deal since he laid down these tracks, it was already evident here that Rogers has more than a passing interest in the culture of these foreign societies.
His passion becomes apparent right from the starting selection, "The World Is Not Your Home." It begins with just Bremel on clarinet stating a melody from a Hausa folk song, followed by traditional drumming out of Western Africa played by Rogers, Bremel, and Stone that ushers in the lengthy middle section, which is spiritual modal jazz straight out of John Coltrane's A Love Supreme era. Rogers and Taborn play some interesting single-note figures in unison before Taborn begins the procession of thoughtful solos by him, Rogers, and Hayden. The songs ends by returning to Bremel's African melody, this time joined by the barrage of talking drums (lunna).
"Las Isla De Reyes" is an ambitious multiple-section piece of Afro-Cuban jazz, which features Taborn's extensive montunos with a backdrop of heavy percussion.
"Oboo Ketua Nyom" is where the African and American jazz forms come together most successfully. A double — sometimes triple — timed rhythm that syncs with a catchy theme played out by Rogers' sax. African xylophones (gyils) provided by Stone and clarinet player Derek Bermel add both percussion and coloring to the melody.
"Mobius Trip" on the other hand, is decidedly more on the challenging bop side of things with a unbalanced time signature and some exceptional piano work by Taborn that pulls in both McCoy Tyner's muscle and Herbie Hancock's classical lyricism.
"Don't Drop That Coffin!" is one of the few spots where Rogers allows himself to showcase his sax chops, here within a challenging setup of a galloping beat and only Cleaver and Hayden supporting him as a pianoless trio. Clocking in at just under five minutes, it's by far the shortest track of this batch but Rogers and his two cohorts make their solo statements count in the short time alloted.
It's not clear why a group of recordings this creative and consistently good would sit unreleased for ten years, but open-minded listeners of jazz should welcome The World Is Not Your Home seeing the light of day. With Rogers' recent return of his focus on jazz, one has to wonder how many more ideas he's picked up all this time that he will apply for his next album. I, for one, am eager to find out.
photographer – Clay Patrick McBride