Rewiew from Don Williamson. Jazzreview.com
Review From Jazzni
Review from allaboutjazz.com
Featured Artist: Ugonna Okegwo
CD Title: UOniverse
Record Label: Satchmo Jazz Records
Style: Straight-Ahead / Classic
Musicians: Ugonna Okegwo (bass); Sam Newsome (soprano saxophone); Xavier Davis (piano); Donald Edwards (drums)
Review: Ugonna Okegwo, who has spent much of his career as a sideman since coming to the U.S. from Germany, has been thinking about the form that his own group would take once he had the opportunity to create one. Writing his own compositions and working with a multitude of New York musicians throughout the last decade, Okegwo has joined not only with some exceptional musicians, most famously in Jacky Terrasson’s trio, but also with some good friends who share Okegwo’s understanding of music. Modeling his compositional interest and his bass work on his inspiration, Charles Mingus, Okegwo has assembled a group that reflects his own personality with the energy he wants and the sonic qualities he seeks.
Considering Okegwo’s chameleonic ability to change with the style of music he’s playing, one may find it difficult to predict the style that he develops for his own CD. His choices are logical, though, as he recruits his friends Sam Newsome, Xavier Davis and Donald Edwards. True to his previously stated intentions, he has led a group that involves all of the members, rather than featuring the bass on most of the numbers.
Leading into the first track with his own intriguing introduction--one that gently suggests to the listener with warm tones and a melodic construction over a single chord--Okegwo within a minute makes clear his ability to shape a tune as he develops the characteristic vamp. Surprisingly, though, on his composition, that vamp doesn’t govern the rest of the piece, Newsome’s soprano sax work more relaxed and freer as distinct phrases are developed. With an unfurling of the possibilities implied by Okegwo’s initial work, “Introducing the UOniverse” (a term never defined but one that possibly describes the entirely of Okegwo’s imagination) develops with gradually building intensity.
The professional maturity of the musicians is evident throughout UOniverse as they never cease to create interest in the music they play through Okegwo’s fascinating arrangements or through their own interplay. For this is a group that obviously listens to each other. “Never Let Me Go” leads in with lightly Latin groove but develops soon enough into an irresistible swing, Okegwo and drummer Donald Edwards locked into the seamless changes of rhythm. Thelonious Monk’s “Let’s Call This” proceeds from a similar basis as Okegwo sparingly outlines the song’s architecture before the other three musicians come in with snapping rhythmic sway. “Elasticity,” an entirely appropriate title because of the variety of its meanings, especially to a bass player, remains pliable throughout the performance as Newsome rises from a quiet, winding entry, the second chorus an octave higher, to a thrilling conclusion over 4 bars before pianist Xavier Davis leads into the repeat or the bridge.
“The Whirl” follows Okegwo’s method of short bass lead-in before the entire texture becomes evident. After Newsome and Okegwo play the melody in unison--a melody based upon of Middle Eastern chants, effectively presented by Newsome’s soprano sax--Davis and Edwards provide emphasis with the 3-note jabbing accent. And Wayne Shorter’s “Infant Eyes” provides yet another opportunity appropriate to Newsome’s effective use of the soprano sax, although this time the tune, understated and dramatized through Edwards’s rolling thunder--takes its time to blossom into its eventual fullness.
Recorded in Barcelona and released on the Spanish label, Satchmo Jazz Records, UOniverse finally allows Ugonna Okegwo to release his first CD as a leader. The result is well worth the search. For UOniverse is the creation of one of the current generation’s leading bassists whose lifetime of experiences--including, among other things, a summa cum laude degree, a multi-cultural background (as a British citizen who grew up in Germany and who lives in the U.S.) and gigs with some of the more innovative jazz artists--is reflected in his music.
Tracks: Introducing the UOniverse, Never Let Me Go, Three Views of a Secret, Back to Zero, Elasticity, Let’s Call This, Suspended Memory, Cherokee, The Whirl, Infant Eyes
Record Label Website: http://www.satchmojazz.com
Artist's Website: http://www.ugonnaokegwo.co
Reviewed by: Don Williamson
Review from Jazzni
UOniverse, bassist Ugonna Okegwo’s first record as a leader, is a superior statement from a superior musician. Long known for his sideman work with Jacky Terrasson and Tom Harrell (and as a New York bass mainstay), Okegwo took his own quartet on tour to Spain last year and documented the band for the Satchmo label.
As a bandleader, Okegwo is deeply creative within a mainstream context, shining new light on standards like ‘Never Let Me Go,’ ‘Cherokee’ and Monk’s ‘Let’s Call This’. As a bassist, he has never been more solid; his approach draws together funk and jazz influences with soulful precision. The group includes leading lights such as Xavier Davis on piano, Donald Edwards on drums, and the incomparable Sam Newsome on soprano saxophone. Highly recommended.