This CD isn't really Jazz but it is affecting in its way; Bill Tolliver's drumming, spoken poetry and samples are about a love supreme of the more earthly sort.
Think the Song of Songs in the Bible without the more explicit bits. Eastern plucked instruments (zithers? Kotos?), bell trees, the odd drum loop, kalimba, synthesizers and an occasional saxophone from Lee Hester accompany Tolliver's verbal reflections on the meaning of Woman and the possible meanings, I think, of one woman in particular. Musically, "Africa" and "Africa II" open and close the recording with distant voice synth echoes, thrilling tribal-sounding percussion which never lands in any one time signature I can fathom, and some votive-light sax, flute and whistle. Nicely done! But you may not be ready for the spoken-word sections unless you're in exactly the right mood. Tolliver has an excellent voice for this sort of thing, and the musical cushioning has its elastic moments.
"Sassy Walk" has a Brazilian feel, for example, and Tolliver does a bit of a "Sportin Life" here as he views a lady pass in her inimitable way, "head cocked ever so slightly as if listening, she never stopped learning how to walk." Sounds like a modern-day "Satin Doll" in spirit. The bulk of his observations of the female phenomenon, though, are often along the lines of "Oh gentle soul reclining on thy celestial bed, breathe deep of thy creation" ("My Star") or "...the night takes you to bed. How jealous I am." The love is obvious, and it is easily transmitted to those receptive. The question is, are you?
Being male and having no ability to figure out any woman I have ever known well, the only thing I have figured out is that most of those I have known didn't particularly mind if I didn't understand them. What they did seem to want was that I understand myself. SHE contains no attempt at self-understanding, but it certainly is serious and heartfelt. As I said before, you'll have to be in the mood for this. A great anniversary present for one's wife, and there aren't as many of those out there as us guys think.
by Ken Egbert
Jazz Now Interactive
Copyright Jazz Now, May 2003 issue, all rights reserved