Album Review of
The Dark Fire Sessions

Written by Joe Ross
November 19, 2021 - 1:29pm EST
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Ten compositions by New Yok-based pianist Alex Brown are brought to life in The Dark Fire Sessions, recorded in his independent Harlem rehearsal and studio space, with his brother Zach Brown (bass), Eric Doob (drums), and a host of guest artists who provide tracks with guitar and percussion. Alex Brown had studied at the New England Conservatory where he learned much about the scope of jazz piano, including elements of Latin rhythm, from Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez. Brown’s musical vision was to blend authentic Latin American folk rhythms with his own eclectic personality of soulful, funk, and post-bop sounds. A seven-minute rendition of “Chacarera” evolves with a traditional Argentinian rhythm of the same name, and features some nice guitar work by Matthew Stevens, Eric Kurimski and Lucas Apostoleris.  Brown taps introspective heartfelt sadness with “See You Again.”  “Wistful Road” is one album standout pieces that includes percussionists Paolo Stagnaro and Sebastian Natal. “New Flamenco” incorporates colorings of Sergio Martinez’s cajon and flamenco percussion, recorded remotely in Spain.      

The album’s closer, the eight-minute “Anthem,” was inspired by tumba music, a 6/8 groove from the island of Curacao. According to A. B. Spellman’s liner notes, the song is built on metric modulation, first in 6/8, then in 12 beats (5/8 and 7/8), before moving to an Afro-Cuban 4/3/5, and finally returning to the 12 to conclude. You figure it all out, but the bottomline is that the power is in the percussion and its intricate changes, as arranged by Alex Brown. Clearly, the band had fun bringing his compositions to life, as the juxtaposition of notes and rhythms create a unique experience of melody and groove. And beyond its groove, their creative music has become something even larger with its own forward momentum. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)