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Reviewers: Glyn Pursglove, Jonathan Woolf

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The Liberation Music Collective

Rebel Portraiture

AD ASTRUM AD38162 [58:58]

 

 

 

Passing Away (For Giles Corey)

An Afterlife for Jeffery Miller

Kent State

An Afterlife for Berta Caceres

River of Life

An Afterlife for Ruqia Hassan

Iqra

Ditchside Monument

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 Mythology, 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 altogether.

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.

Jonathan Woolf

 


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