Olu Dara's transformation from iconoclastic jazz trumpeter to laid-back gumbo blues man is apparently complete. The former Henry Threadgill and Julius Hemphill sideman, who all but discarded his cornet for a guitar on his solo debut, continues to apply free-form jazz concepts to rambling soul and R&B with varying degrees of success on Neighborhoods.
Even with name guests like Dr. John and Cassandra Wilson, there's a defiantly arbitrary feeling to the disc. While his band work up a languid groove, Dara strums his guitar, mumbles about Harlem and warbles off key. The looseness of the session is part of the appeal, but most of the tunes here are half-songs that just barely survive for three minutes. Live it's a no-brainer, but on record Dara sounds too casual for his own good, and by the time Neighborhoods is halfway through, you wish he'd settle down in one place for a little while.