In yesterday’s review of the album by Scatter The Atoms That Remain I
wondered whether free jazz had detached itself from social problems and
whether it can still provide some kind of relevant function, or whether it
was true that jazz has slowly come to a standstill. Projects like
Irreversible Entanglements answer these questions in a clear way. Yes, free
jazz has a relevant function these days and if the problems of
African-Americans in today’s society are similar to the ones in the 1960s
then it’s legitimate to use the music of that period. On the one hand the
band brings back the Ornette Coleman Quartet - especially the music of Ornette! “No Más“ begins with a simple phrase of trumpet and alto,
in which Keir Neuringer and Aquiles Navarro sometimes shift and sometimes play in
unison, which calls up the spirits of Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry. On
the other hand the band refers to the Sun Ra Arkestra’s When The Sun Comes Out and The Magic City on “Who Sent
You - Ritual“. In doing this Irreversible Entanglements prove that they're
operating within a context which extends a tradition.
“Stay on it“, don't give up: these are the first words of Camae Ayewa
a.k.a. Moor Mother on the opening track. Tcheser Holmes’s drum style rides
the cymbals hard, swings and lets the tom-toms roll only short but loud
like blazing flames. Then a bluesy head is delivered by Neuringer
(saxophones) and Navarro (trumpet). Their melody glows deep red in
a minor key, bending and stretching time. The contrabass (Luke Stewart)
stoically pulls through a groove, but breathes freely as well. Until again
this clearly articulated voice declaims: “You can't save the night/ Here in
America“. “The Code Noir - Anima“ is the name of the song, after the
notorious legal text published under the reign of Louis XIV, which from
1685 to 1848 regulated the inhuman treatment of the slaves. Against the
background of this text Moor Mother develops the following questions: How
long will it take until the African-Americans have enough? How long will
they stand being treated the way they have been treated for so long? When
will they revolt? (“At what point do we stand up / at the breaking point /
at the point of no return … At what point do we give a shit / do we stand
up and say something“).
The whole album is a dream of salvation after racism, of afrofuturism, but
it’s also about revealing the alienation in the US society (“at what point
do we call each other “other“). It’s the most obvious reference to Sun Ra
at this point, but this is only the experimental side of this tradition,
the other one is Max Roach’s and Abbey Lincoln’s “Triptych: Prayer,
Protest, Peace“ and Charles Mingus “Free Cell Block F, ’Tis Nazi USA“.
Irreversible Entanglements might reach a younger audience and open their
ears to free jazz (not only thanks to the fact that they’re an incredibly
tight band) with their music because the determination of Ayewa's voice is
also reminiscent of the Last Poets, especially at the end of “Who Sent You
- Ritual“ and “Bread Out Of Stone“. Here the music is carried mainly by
drums, bass and vocals and builds a bridge to hip-hop.
The band is an example of how the highest musicality and rage are not
mutually exclusive, but rather fueling - at least on this level. The
sovereignty of Ayewa/Moor Mother shows itself not only in the fact that she
uses her poetry and her anger selectively. The repetitions and the
psychedelic elements remind of gospel music (also in “Who Sent You -
Ritual“). In her live performances Ayewa often uses a strong reverb on her
vocals, which can be disturbing. Here everything is crystal clear, which
supports the message even better. Free jazz hasn't sounded more accessible
for a long time. I’m pretty sure that this album will end in my top ten
list at the end of the year.
Who Sent You?
is available on vinyl, as a CD and as a download.
You can listen to and buy it on Bandcamp:
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