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As if to make it clear where the inspiration for the uniquely rhythmic, genre-transcending musical vision of Dark Chocolate comes from, the collective's third CD, Caper, includes the following phrase on the cover of its eclectic third release: "From the Canyons of the Big Sur." That's the creative environment where percussionist Barklie "Clay" Henry continues to gather musician friends from varied backgrounds to jam on a wide variety of jazz-inflected global fusion -- or perhaps it's world fusion-inflected jazz, with exotic and spiritual touches to spare and an unabashed leaning toward the avant-garde. Most of the ensemble from the group's first two projects are back, notably bassist Kim Stone (the Rippingtons, Spyro Gyra), pianist Weber Iago, guitarist Joseph Lucido, and vocalist Jacqui Hope. One prominent addition, ethereal vocalist Ashley Mazanec, is introduced immediately on the hypnotic and ambient opener "I Give My Soul"; her sensual voice floats dreamily over Lucido's languid guitar and Iago's haunting, jazzy piano riffs. She also appears in vocalese fashion on the trippy, avant-garde jazz experiment "Funko," and Caper's most engaging mainstream jazz exercise, the joyfully percussive centerpiece "Chocolate Jam," led by Iago's infectious melodic inventions. The album's odd song titles on the album perfectly reflect the unusual meters and coolly improvisational approach to the 12-track set, from "Gitane" (with Hope's soothing, wordless vocals punctuating Nico Georis's infectious accordion and Xocoyotzin Moraza's sharp Veracruz Harp Plucking) to the dark, brooding "Fundament," a jazz trio piece propelled by Rick Chelew's droning bowed bass. Lest we forget that Dark Chocolate is the irresistible brainchild of a percussion master, the listener can't escape without a high-energy, all-rhythmic instrument trio piece, "Los Tres Cajones," on which Henry plays bass cajon and maracas. Inventive and off the beaten path as ever, this chapter of Dark Chocolate's story is, to extend the metaphor, richer than ever.
Performance CreditsDark Chocolate Primary Artist
Brock Bradford Cajon
Clay Henry Percussion,Maracas,Cajon
Ginger Holladay Vocals
Kim Stone Bass
Denine Monet Vocals
Weber Iago Piano
Nico Georis Synthesizer,Piano,Accordion
Mike Shannon Trap Kit
Joseph Lucido Guitar
John Nava Conga
Xocoyotzin Moraza Veracruz
Rick Chelew Bass,Bowed Bass
Jayson Fann Percussion,Berimbau,Cajon
Ashley Mazenec Vocals
Lori Hofer Vocals
Steve Loebs Percussion
Jacqui Hope Vocals
Technical CreditsClay Henry Producer
Leonie Art Direction
Jo Gough Engineer