Daniel Crawford - The Awakening (2014)

Daniel Crawford
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Daniel Crawford makes a red pill reference early in his latest CD, The Awakening. A person can’t talk about the red pill without being in part a pop culture reference to the 1999 film “The Matrix.” The red pill, as fans of “The Matrix” know is the one that allowed Neo to see the world as it actually is rather than the fantasy world that humanity had been lured into by The Matrix.

Daniel Crawford makes a red pill reference early in his latest CD, The Awakening. A person can’t talk about the red pill without being in part a pop culture reference to the 1999 film “The Matrix.” The red pill, as fans of “The Matrix” know is the one that allowed Neo to see the world as it actually is rather than the fantasy world that humanity had been lured into by The Matrix.

So, is the monologue that opens The Awakening Crawford’s way of telling his listeners that the songs they will consume on The Awakening will raise their consciousness? Well, kind of. The Awakening does not include 12 tracks that aim to mobilize listeners to fight against global warming, inequality or the prison industrial complex.   The “red pill” that the bass-voiced speaker refers to on the title track is actually a reference to Crawford’s previous album, the excellent Red Pill.

Crawford collaborates with Cleveland P. Jones on “Home (Africa)” a percussive and soulful call for people to make a physical, cultural and spiritual connection to the motherland. This is the sole lyrical and thematic social statement that Crawford makes on The Awakening but it is a strong one that features djembe drums, African poly rhythms and powerful lyrics. “We’ve been lost in the wilderness/no compass no place to rest/broken souls and blinded eyes/false identity how can we rise.”

Music can awaken and raise consciousness in other ways, and Crawford chooses to open minds through his brand of jazz fusion and alternative soul.  A keyboardist, Crawford, is equally imaginative whether he is doing atmospheric funk on “Your Guess is as Good as Mine” juxtaposing his jazz piano riffs against a rock guitar on “Kashmir.”

Crawford is pushing “Trouble,” a soul-jazz-rap collaboration that also features flute player Monet with Amp Fiddler on the vocals. That’s reasonable with its fusion of Monet matching the percussive contemporary R&B beat with an assertive response from her flute matching Fiddler’s rapid fire delivery that alternates between rap and sung.

Still, the mid tempo ballad “The One,” featuring Vikter Duplaix is the best of the album’s vocal tracks, and ranks with Crawford’s channeling of the late George Duke on the aptly titled tribute “Duke” and the straight ahead jazz piece “Under the Cherry Moon” as the top tracks on The Awakening. “The One” is another track that finds Crawford pushing the poly rhythm envelope to the limits. Crawford layers his jazz piano over a funky wah wah guitar and then drops a pulsating bass line and percussion on the bottom. Duplaix’s silky smooth vocals move behind and in front of the melody and still manage to hang with every tempo change the creative Crawford throws his way.

Crawford was more up front about the consciousness raising on Red Pill, but it would be incorrect to assume that the instrumental tunes on The Awakening are devoid of messages. Crawford’s use of rhythm and complex melody is a reminder that complex need not mean inaccessible. That’s a message that is worth waking up for. Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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