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A local label and a local artist are taking on the world—musically. Releasing Celebration! Music of 4 Continents by Brother Ah’s World Music Ensemble, Upper Marlboro, Md.-based Mapleshade Productions reaches across the table for a well-deserved slice of the Windham Hill pie. The recording delivers on its title like a prescription drug living up to a manufacturer’s advertising claims. There is music from four continents; it is rendered in an Afro-jazz setting, not in a confining way, but so as to locate and illuminate the intersections linking them. And, led by Brother Ah, known as Robert Northern when he is not on the boards, the musicians do play as an ensemble, fluidly and sensually. The music’s emotional element is matched by the recording’s technical quality, obtained by means explained in almost self-parodistic detail on the CD packaging.
Taped live with as little technological enhancement and as much verisimilitude as possible, Celebration! is powerful enough to rattle speakers but subtle enough to find the threads connecting the old spiritual “Wade in the Water” to a 17th-century Japanese melody and a Mandinka tribal chant. These and the six other tunes arise and unfold at a stately pace, moving the listener around the promised continents, if not the entire world, in slightly less than 70 minutes. Celebration! is available from Mapleshade Productions, 2301 Crain Highway, Upper Marlboro, MD 20772.