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The music of Oakland pianist Kimara flows like a narrative episode one might experience just before waking, when the dreamer begins to direct his dream. Far from being a sleepytime affair, however, his compositions for The Inside World, a two-volume meditation on “the human psyche and human spirituality,” hum with an alertness to impulses of both the conscious and subconscious world. So while there's a clear intent to Kimara's sound in terms of tunefulness, tonal color, and ambience, his concept takes flight via improvisation, or what he calls “free interpretation.”

For The Inside World Volume 1 and its companion disc (subtitled Inner Peace), the 38-year-old L.A. expat assembled his “total dream band”: cornetist Bobby Bradford (Ornette Coleman, John Carter), bass clarinetist Bennie Maupin (Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock), and flutist James Newton (who, for the past 18 years, has won top honors for his instrument in Downbeat magazine's annual critics' poll). In the hands of such distinguished company, Kimara's compositions bloom: The organic arrangements and gorgeous melodies nearly levitate as the combo lays out liquid rhythms, expansive harmonies, and a rich timbral range. The pianist's own playing resonates with a kind of smoothness marked by lush overtones and a light-but-sure touch on the keyboard. Each episodic movement of The Inside World is powerful and purposeful yet wide open to possibility, half instructed and half intuitive.

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