The Northwoods Improvisers return with a new album comprising their first release in 10 years. Raft is the latest effort with an augmented lineup that includes veterans Mike Johnston (bass, bass recorder, wood flutes, percussion) and Nick Ashton (drums, percussion) and unites them with a fierce front line of saxophones with Dominic Berenga (tenor/alto/soprano saxophones, flute, percussion) and Donovan Boxey (alto/soprano saxophone, clarinet, melodica, wood flutes, percussion).
The music is all acoustic and wonderfully recorded with a version of Faruq Z. Bey's "19 Moons" as well as a version of Johnston's "Tasbih", a piece dedicated to Bey. The connection to Bey and the Detroit Jazz community is strong, as both Ashton and Johnston were key performers in the seminal work Bey completed in the twilight of his life. While the group touches on the spiritual in many ways, they also bring forth fire in the form of the young winds duo of Bierenga and Boxey who are wise beyond their years when bringing a saxophone to their lips. The music has the strong rhythm section listeners will instantly recognize with Johnston's deep bass lines and Ashtons powerful drumming.
If this is is your first exposure to the Northwoods Improvisers, it's a perfect place to start. If you've followed the group over their 40+ year career, this record is essential to their continually growing body of work.