Kikanju Baku, Michael Gregory Jackson, Joseph Daley – Endogeny & Exogamy (2016)

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Kikanju Baku was the drummer on Roscoe Mitchell’s sterling two-part Conversations releases that revitalized the avant-garde legend; he made music on the fly with sympathetic talents from the current generation of experimental aces. Pianist Craig Taborn was the other partner on Mitchell’s recent project, and he’s achieved a measure of recognition as a diverse, brilliant musician over the last ten or twelve years in both sideman and leader roles. Much less has been noted about Baku, but there’s a good reason Mitchell asked him to play with him, and recently Baku put forth an album that provides all the clues that Roscoe picked up on when he sized up this up-and-coming percussion wizard. Endogeny & Exogamy (from the label Ethnicity Against the Error) is Baku in another setting with more established heavyweights, this time guitarist Michael Gregory Jackson and tuba player Joseph Daley. Also this time, there’s no real leader as the six improvisational pieces are co-conceived together.

Improv music does better whenever all the participants are experienced in the art of making music on impulse, and these three have that well covered: Jackson has created with Oliver Lake and Julius Hemphill, Daley has put in work with Sam River and Baku, of course, did so with Mitchell. But the improv factor gets amped up another notch by the fact that these single-day session sessions marked the first time Baku, Jackson and Daley have ever played together. What could spell disasters for mere mortals is turned into pure inspiration for musicians who relish going full bore in the darkness.

Baku once again thrives in the presence of older, big-name vets. He paradoxically plays with such density and also catlike agility, filling up so much sonic territory but leaving open certain tonalities for the other two to exploit.

On “A Distinct Clerisy of Blacc Astrologists & Autogenic Augurist Abstractions,” a song that’s even longer than its title, Jackson and Haley note-chase each other in a sandbox Baku prepared just for them, after an initial, tentative period of getting to know each other. While Daley is commanding the low end with rumbles, cogitations and fits of wails, Jackson’s fuzz tones brings abrasiveness to the party, hinting at James ‘Blood’ Ulmer and Sonny Sharrock, while you can hear where the seeds were sown for guys like Vernon Reid and Elliott Sharp. Jackson’s rock side is further revealed once Baku launches into a groove based on a suggestion by Haley that carries them for the last few minutes of this twenty-one minute performance.

“Acetabulum Astropath” is nearly that long, but takes on a more spiritual character. Similar to the spacious, delicate dance of Miles Davis’ “Yesternow,” they meld their voices together to forge something even more otherwordly, and gain steam in a race to the other side of the intensity spectrum. Baku and Daley combine to create a thunderous fog on “Alfarrobeira Hongchow” that Jackson cuts through with stinging whines that’s eager to mix it up when the Baku/Daley gets their train rolling at full speed. On the next track, Baku can be heard discharging sampled sounds from FX pedals and Haley’s tuba is occasionally heard on this album through its own distortion unit as well.

Once again within the demanding circumstances of frenetic and totally unpredictable jazz in the presence of established masters of the art, Kikanju Baku flourishes. Maybe it’s time for people other than Roscoe Mitchell to pay more attention to this guy.

Wanna copy of Endogeny & Exogamy? Get one direct from the source by contacting Baku at Visit Kikanju Baku’s website for more info.

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