“But on Afro Straight, he hasn’t contributed a single composition of his own”, the liner notes say of Ernest Dawkins’s album of mostly standards. That’s not really true. He has two, the brief interluding title track and “Old Man Blues”. But nitpicking aside, Afro Straight is so much more than a standard album of standards. Yes, he has the same racehorses running around his track with Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints” and “Juju”, John Coltrane’s “Mr. PC” and “Central Park West” and the bop relic “Woody ‘N You”. But he has fresh jockeys this time, and it makes for quite a good album. The percussion is especially taught, led by Ruben Alvarez. Trumpeter Corey Wilkes and pianist Willerm Delisfort give surprising shots of life to these numbers, making me wonder if Dawkins will abandon his New Horizons Ensemble in favor of this new group. Afro Straight is dedicated to the late Chicago jazz mentor Von Freeman, but I don’t think he’s the only one that would be proud.
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