Somnambule - Writing About Music

Burnt Sugar ~ Black Sex Y'all: Liberation & Bloody Random Violets

Burnt Sugar locates Miles Davis’s 1975 acid funk masterpieces Agharta and Pangeia as a nexus of possibilities for music in the new millenium. However their music is no excuse for nostalgia, levened as it is with contemporary ingredients including rap, breakbeats and live remixes. The NYC-based group is an everchanging alliance of musicians founded and led by Greg Tate, perhaps best known for his writing in The Village Voice.

Black Sex Y’All is Burnt Sugar's fourth release in as many years. Its predecessor, a radical interpretation of Stravinsky's The Rites of Spring was ‘conductioned’ by Butch Morris and featured a rare appearance from Miles Davis' legendary guitarist Pete Cosey. Greg Tate follows Morris’s lead and conducts Burnt Sugar’s improvisations like an orchestra, silencing or introducing players with the movement of a hand or a nod. This latest release includes guests Vernon Reid (Living Colour) and Marque Gilmore (Drum FM).

Tate and his group expound an inclusive methodology which sees genres melded at will: ‘Fear’ fuses blues, nu-metal and rap, a cover of Max Roach’s ‘Driva Man/Freedom Day’ combines jazz with soul and breakbeats. Rather than a Frankenstein’s monster, these musical conflations work at an exhilarating level producing predominantly vital music. Most groups are content to explore the potential of a single hybrid, but Burnt Sugar move on restlessly. The result is an occasionally exhausting, but always rich patchwork quilt of possibilities.

Burnt Sugar’s cds aren't widely available, so check their website for distributors at
Colin Buttimer
March 2004
Published by Jazzwise magazine