Passing Away (For Giles Corey)
An Afterlife for Jeffery Miller
An Afterlife for Berta Caceres
River of Life
An Afterlife for Ruqia Hassan
An Afterlife for Noxolo Nogwaza
An Afterlife for the Unnamed
All I Need
Matt Riggen (trumpet, vocals 2, 6); Jane Sycks, Jess Henry (trumpets); Ana
Nelson, Sean Imboden, Evan Drybread (saxophones/clarinets); Miro Sobrer,
Matt Waterman (trombones); Brennan Johns (bass trombone, French horn); Kyle
Schardt, David Deutsch (guitars); Ellie Pruneau (piano); Hannah Fidler
(bass, vocals); Hannah Johnson (drums); Yael Litwin (cajon, gyil); Shari
Rogge-Fidler, Mailyn Fidler (vocals 10)
Recorded Primary Sound Studios, no date
The lineage of this band – musically, as well as politically – is that of
Carla Bley and Charlie Haden (ie the Liberation Music Orchestra). Both the
band’s name and the title of its album attest to a firm engagement with
both contemporary and historical elements and this focuses on the
inequalities, iniquities and cruelties, putting it mildly, that have
inspired the particular tracks.
The notes by Kabir Sehgal, who a decade ago wrote
Jazzocracy: Jazz, Democracy, and the Creation of a New American
give fair warning of the politicised agenda at work behind the songs –
sometimes very confusingly for those longhairs amongst us who like to read
liner notes that attend to matters of chronology and order when it comes to
track numbering. But whilst it would perfectly possible to ignore this
baggage and merely listen to the album as pure music, that would be to lose
the impetus behind the music-making.
Thus, there’s a hymnal element to the opening track, Passing Away,
opened by Ana Nelson and continued by solid trombone from Matt Waterman and
flaring trumpet by Matt Riggen. Orchestral textures are well varied.
Riggen’s vocal on An Afterlife for Jeffrey Miller is deployed over
strong, gun-like percussion whilst the polythematic Kent State is
notable for the potent melodies that emerge after a limpid piano
introduction. These reflective and hymnal elements are ripely poetic,
though the loose-limbed rather 1960s guitar solo offers another arena
This is the first of a sequence of ‘afterlives’ for several named
individuals. One – for Berta Caceres – is largely for bass and
percussion but each has its identifiable musical stamp. Iqra
enshrines a rap vocal and a deft guitar solo from Kyle Schardt though River of Life offers altogether less contentious rewards – its
cool more luminous texturing including opportunities for the recorder, and
French horn; plangency is very much the name of this track, whereas
elsewhere stridency sets in. All I Need, the final and yet longest
track, offers a nice arrangement and vocal, changing patterns and colours.
It’s an example of the band being unshackled.
There’s a strongly politicised component to this ensemble and hence its
recording. I found it only intermittently convincing – not so much the
politics, more the music making.