Here is an interesting and not paradoxical combination: Bennie Maupin on Cryptogramophone. Maupin hasn't been heard from as a leader since 1998 on his fine, funky, Driving While Black. That doesn't mean he hasn't been busy; he's played on records by Chick Corea, the Headhunters, George Cables, Victor Bailey, David Arnay, Mike Clark, and others. He was also part of DJ and producer Carl Craig's revolutionary Detroit Experiment. Penumbra is all his, however, and aside from Jewel in the Lotus, it may be the finest outing in his catalog as a leader. Maupin plays his usual array of instruments – tenor, soprano, flute, bass clarinet, and piano. He is joined by the excellent bassist Darek Oleszkiewicz (also known as "Oles"), drummer Michael Stephans, and Darryl "Munyungo" Jackson on percussion. Rhythm is the key here, as all of these 14 compositions are rhythmically propelled. Maupin's compositional frame has been informed by all of his teachers, most notably John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and Yusef Lateef. Modal motifs can be heard in most pieces, and Maupin's playing around and through the rhythm makes for infectious and quietly dramatic listening. Restraint is a key element of all the tracks on this set. Tunes don't "swing" per se, but they are excellent examples of the deep interplay of the ensemble.
The CD "Planet X" (inspired by the exotic astrophysical phenomena of the 10th planet) is Baghiri’s second privately released CD on his own Bluebox-label. It’s an in-depth ambient turmoil of 76 minutes, blending deep soundscapes with sequenced pieces (in Amir’s words: "multidimensional ambient & groove creation") and environmental sounds. A certain touch of Steve Roach’s music still can’t be missed, but again Amir shows he’s has found his way in the genre by exploring his own musical pathways over the years. In a way it’s a pleasant dream flight with some more active passages, but in no way background music. This highly atmospheric and well produced recording certainly deserves both thumbs up!