Since the early 1980s bassist and composer Santi Debriano has maintained an active recording schedule as a sideman, including several recordings with jazz greats Kirk Lightsey, Louis Hayes, Sonny Fortune, and Pharoah Sanders. For his eighth recording as a leader, Debriano presents Arkestra Bembe, a nonet with a versatile lineup performing ten Debriano originals. When blended together, the nonet’s combination of flute, acoustic guitar, three saxophones, trumpet, piano, double bass, and drums creates a rich, alluring sound that will make your speakers purr. The slow, bluesy “Imaginary Guinea” features ear-catching solos by flautist Andrea Brachfeld and guitarist Adrian Alvarado. Baritone saxophonist Ray Sero and trumpeter Emile Turner stand out on the medium swinging “Spunky” while the Latin-influenced “Basilar” has brief solos by almost everybody. With a melody reminiscent of its namesake, “Mr. Monk” features fiery solos from T.K. Blue’s alto saxophone and Tommy Morimoto’s tenor, and the song features tempo changes reminiscent of “Mr. Mingus.” The melody of “Till Then” bears a strong resemblance to Bobby Hutcherson’s composition “Til Then” from the 60s. Ashanti is an enjoyable listen for fans of larger ensembles.
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