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CD Review: New Zion w. Cyro's "Sunshine Seas" 

(2016, RareNoise Records)

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On Sunshine Seas, world percussionist Cyro Baptista joins long-time collaborator Jaime Saft's dub-jazz New Zion Trio, who change their name to New Zion and drop the "Trio" for the occasion. This is largely improvised music, but also quite strict in its aesthetic. New Zion is all about groove fluency, open space, and the palpability and personality of individual sounds as they emerge from and disappear back into the river of groove. Saft has long been after something you might call a semi-acoustic take on dub, capturing the outlandish production textures of that Jamaican form with modern jazz tools.

On Sunshine Seas, the buoyant reggae and Afro-Cuban grooves purr along on such highlights as the sublimely subtle "Onda," the psychedelic "Ranking," and the skittering "Samba Jahmeyka." In the great tradition of dub production, they are subject to all manner of sonic interlopers and groovus interruptus: unprecedented vocal happenings, ridiculous and ephemeral synthesized sounds, studio-engineered meltdowns and microblasts courtesy of co-producer Christian Castagno, and the remarkable array of high-character percussion sounds issuing from Baptitsa. The resulting texture is both organic and absurdist, in the high-20th-century sense of the word: hypnotic but also engagingly unpredictable. The rhythm section is utterly onboard with the rules and the intent—New Zion's regular drummer, Craig Santiago, and, on several tracks here, the monster bassist Brad Jones, who has recently engaged in a different kind of roots reclamation with Don Byron's New Gospel Quintet.

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  • (2016, RareNoise Records)

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