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Review Round-Up: Bennie Maupin's Early Reflections

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"Recorded in Warsaw with a Polish quartet, it's acoustic post-bop jazz of rich lyricism, both subtle and audaciously gorgeous...Reflections never feels like a reinvention—merely an artist detouring into a different aspect of himself. That detour just happens to yield something extraordinary." --Michael J. West, Village Voice (4/15/08)

"Early Reflections's instrumentation may be a more conventional setting than Penumbra's woodwinds/bass/drums/percussion line-up, but it's just as fine, its generally subdued tone broken by occasional bursts of fiery intensity...Penumbra and the equally outstanding Early Reflections book-end The Jewel in the Lotus—a promise Maupin never managed to follow up—demonstrating two very different sides and making it clear that he's truly back and better than ever." --John Kelman, All About Jazz (April 2008)

"Based on a collectivist spirit, the music rejects standard melody-solos-melody structures for a brushstroke flow of color, textures, dialogue and modal improvisation. Short, sketch-like compositions give way to more expansive floats of lyricism." --Mark Stryker, Detroit Free Press (4/01/08)

"Bennie Maupin, aided also by the recent re-release of his classic ECM disc The Jewel In The Lotus, is back in his own right and is making exceptional, beautiful, inspirational music...Another milestone for this highly rated musician." --100 Greatest Jazz Albums blog (4/22//08)

"Bennie Maupin has been making excellent albums lately. He recorded Early Reflections ...with a group of young Polish musicians who aren’t well known here. Many of the pieces begin with small melodic motifs that he and the quartet patiently explore, sometimes with Hania Chowaniec-Rybka’s wordless vocals. This is patient, well-planned music, and Mr. Maupin’s sound on bass clarinet, as well as tenor and soprano saxophone and flute, is provocatively honest and strong and almost plain, with spaces in between phrases; he’s never playing too much. It’s a remarkably clear-minded record." --Ben Ratliff, The New York Times (May 2008)

"A passionate outing of rumination and whimsy in the company of an all-Polish trio, the album serves up melodic gems by Maupin on tenor and soprano sax and alto flute, half of which develop fully in the two- to four-minute range...Best of the bunch: the slow dance "Escondido," which Maupin delivers with earthy bass clarinet clarity, and two tunes featuring Hania Chowaniec-Rybka improvising wordless vocals in the mix." --Dan Ouellette, Billboard (April 2008)

"He's an admirably tasteful player who truly speaks through his horn; his tenor sax sound is full of earthiness, warmth and soul, and the gutsy hum of bass clarinet is unmistakable. And he ranks quite high in my list of favorite flutists with an astoundingly deep, rich tone that envelopes the listener's ears...Since his Penumbra comeback in 2006, Cryptogramophone has truly captured Maupin's essence: his expressive tone, his compositional mastery, and his instinct for the spontaneous. Early Reflections is an easy recommendation to longtime fans as well as a powerful entre for newcomers to his music. There's always something fresh about Maupin's playing, and this album opened my ears all over again."
--Kellen Yamanaka, Song with Orange (4/22/08)

"Early Reflections is a striking album - carefully composed, no wasted notes or excess, sensitive dynamics and a clear musical vision. It achieves all of this without becoming wallpaper music, dinner music, or coffee shop music. It's far more stirring and purposeful than the album Maupin's old comrade Herbie Hancock recently won a Grammy for. It is what it is, to spin a tautological truism, and it is a largely meditative affair with some flourishes and flairs that provide the necessary contrast to make it all worthwhile. Maupin squeezes every ounce out of the CD format, packing in 76 minutes of music that alters the space time continuum in the way only good music can." --Soundslope (April 2008)

"Bennie Maupin's Cryptogramophone label follow-up CD to Penumbra both parallels and provides a departure from that excellent effort...One has to always wonder if Maupin has a magnum opus within him, and this comes close, for it is certainly his most introspective, reflective, and inner spirit-directed effort in a long and varied career playing progressive jazz."
--Thom Jurek, All Music Guide (4/14/08)

"Within the 13 songs are short bursts of freestyle creation that set up more breathtaking compositions such as 'Escondido' and 'Tears.' Even a bluesy swing is managed on 'Prophet's Motifs.' Playing his signature bass clarinet as well as alto flute, tenor and soprano saxophones, Bennie and his all-Polish quartet (joined by vocalist Hana Chowaniec-Rybka on two numbers) explore great knowns and unknowns on this spellbinding offering." --Urban Network(4/08/08)

"Early Reflections slides easily from Latin to ballad to blues, revisiting 1974's electronically adventurous 'The Jewel in the Lotus' along the way. While playing in Poland, Maupin was knocked out by some local musicians...and conscripted them for the sessions."
--Gina McIntyre, Los Angeles Times (April 2008)

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