One of the most miraculous gifts that the music of Jazz – this priceless gift from the African-American – has given the musical world is that it has freed the diaspora of artists and indeed all human beings from practically all forms of bondage. The irony that ultimately it was the institution of slavery in America, which forced the Americanised African to celebrate the rhythms that coursed through his blood in secret gave rise to these black codes from the underground – this Jazz that drives grown men and women crazy today. And that irony should never be lost on all of us, even if today in all his gentility that same African-American continues to give generously of the impulse of his heartbeat.
Musicians like saxophonist Joe Lovano and trumpeter Dave Douglas and all forward-thinking contemporary musicians clearly appreciate being given this gift and so they stay true to that tradition. But they also express the innate nature of the freedom of Jazz by intuitively breaking any shackles that might bind them. In the best and most memorable circumstances, when this happens, it is as if a momentous spark has been provided harmonically and rhythmically to music. It is this spark that has lit the fire in which this music burns – in the bluest part of the flame, one must add. Scandal is not a bad name for such an event as the music is momentous albeit not as radical as the music spat forth by the Jazz avant-garde of the 60s and musicians from the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. This is a mild form of heresy. The latter was considered apostasy in many circles.
And while it is prudent to avoid words such as “revolutionary” – as one would the music of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and men like George Lewis, Henry Threadgill and Anthony Braxton, this music – more like the music of Herbie Nichols, for instance, is just as explosive. Try following the melody, singing along and you might easily be led astray, not for want of a “melodic line” but for the angles and French curves that it might follow. Listen to “Scandal” and you will be struck by the hair-raising risks that the melody takes. Each note is to die for and the musicians approach its Coltranesque profundity appropriately: as if their lives depended on it and by engaging in its psychological ambiguity with buoyant, almost insolently effortless aristocratic grace. One is naturally drawn into this in all its variety and stylishness by the lead voices of saxophonist Joe Lovano and trumpeter Dave Douglas.
But make no mistake, pianist Lawrence Fields, bassist Linda May Han Oh and drummer Joey Baron, all of whom are prodigiously gifted and have every right to swim with the big fish. Each of these musicians bring debonair virtuosity and swagger when it comes to this music – whether dealing with the angles of Wayne Shorter’s “Fee Fi Fo Fum” and “Juju” or the music of Mr. Douglas and Mr. Lovano from the ethereal “Dream State” to the interstellar “Libra”. Thus like all grate musicians, grateful for the gift of Jazz, these musicians are paying it forward, but not with lip-service to being set free, but like true artists, sculpting the shaping the changeable amorphous and immortal idiom of Jazz.
Track list – 1: Dream State; 2: Full Sun; 3: Fee Fi Fo Fum; 4: Ups and Downs; 5: The Corner Tavern; 6: Scandal; 7: Juju; 8: Mission Creep; 9: Full Moon; 10: High Noon; 11: Libra
Personnel – Joe Lovano: tenor and G mezzosoprano saxophones; Dave Douglas: trumpet; Lawrence Fields: piano; Linda May Han Oh: bass; Joey Baron: drums
Released – 2018
Label – Greenleaf Music
Runtime – 1:06:34