Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Irreversible Entanglements - Open The Gates (International Anthem, 2021) ****½

Camae Ayewa a.k.a Moor Mother is pissed. Still. But in a different way than on Irreversible Entanglements’ previous albums. “Open the gates, it's energy time“, she snaps at the beginning of the title track of the new album. The poet, rapper and irritation artist (as a German critic called her) rages on for more than 70 minutes in word sequences of biblical power, rich in metaphor, sometimes full of anger, sometimes full of tenderness. Ayewa and her band - once again the wonderful Aquiles Navarro (trumpet), Tcheser Holmes (drums), Keir Neuringer (saxophone) and Luke Stewart (bass) - make greater use of electronic sound splinters, weaving them into a free-jazz tapestry of sound. Open the Gates was recorded in one day and is reminiscent of the greats like Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry (just listen to the wonderful brass section in “Storm Came Twice“), while “Keys to Creation“ gives an idea of how an electric Miles might sound in these stormy times. But more than anything else, the music of Sun Ra shines through on this album. Irreversible Entanglements create a kaleidoscope of Black Culture, whose threads reach into Afrofuturism, tradition and avant-garde - just like the Arkestra of the great alien from the planet Saturn. This may also remind us that jazz was once the soundtrack of the Civil Rights Movement, that sound can also be interference.

Open the Gates starts with a dance floor banger that uses the bass line of “Theme de Yoyo“ by the Art Ensemble of Chicago. But if you think Irreversible Entanglements have compromised and become more conciliatory, you’re wrong. The band shimmies to “Lágrimas Del Mar“, which swings briskly even as the tears flow: We are, after all, "so close to the good news." Above all, however, is the desire to explore the extremes. The central piece is the 20-minute “Water Meditation“, which talks about healing. Ayewa cools the souls: "We are sounding for peace." But the places she repeatedly invokes also identify hot spots of shameful racist violence. Musically, an acoustic bass stumbles over a polluted desert of sound, synthesizers remind us of gun salvos. They recorded the evil monsters from their bad dreams right along with it. How do they sound? Noise splinters, saxophone drones, muffled drums.

The album finally closes with “The Port Remembers“, in which the hope for healing is ultimately wiped away again. “A dream / I remember a nightmare“, Ayewa begins. “Lynch angels from 1590 / … The port remembers the slow walk into the void /Washing away the blood / … Dollar cotton / Forgive us of our debts / Our sins, our service / What always, would everywhere / What by all, is held to be true / He′s alive, dead alive in a grave“. The piece is one long lament about the original sin of slavery, the thorn in the flesh of the USA. The bass wanders, saxophone and trumpet drift apart, oblique, atonal. Nothing is alright, no cure in sight, the fighters are just disillusioned.

In October, Wynton Marsalis turned 60. At the concerts celebrating his anniversary, he has played, among other pieces, Sonny Rollins’s “Freedom Suite“: technically brilliant, flawless, clean. But today’s reality is ugly and dirty. Irreversible Entanglements reflect it in their music.

Watch the video for the title track:

5 comments:

  1. You add nothing of value to this review by sneering at Wynton Marsalis. In my opinion this is an example of gratuitous virtue signalling by the reviewer.

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  2. No sneering detected in the review. The only thing apparent here is a colossal argumentum ad odium on your part, my dear anonymous

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  3. I read Martin's point a little differently. First, I am not sure if speaking to common reference points like this need be denounced as virtue signaling, especially as the point is rather evenhanded. Second, the remark was not just a token shot at Marsalis, but was about the poignancy of his recent performances of Freedom Suite. I cannot say much about the shows themselves, which I have not heard. Though, I imagine Martin's is a fair enough critique. I can say, however, that the other side to the point, that Irreversible Entanglements have a claim (and particularly a strong one at that that) to jazz tradition of biting political and social criticism of which Freedom Suite is a part and that the group might even speak more directly to the passions of the current moment than concert hall performances previously provocative (and still incredible) pieces from the free jazz canon seems on point, even if those latter performances are technically impeccable and likely still moving.

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  4. What we take from a piece music is of course such a personal thing but it seems a shame and an injustice that this didn't receive a 5 star review.

    For me this is absolutely essential music - a timely and timeless combination of skill and passion - and the album of the year not just in free jazz but all genres.

    And yes, it makes you want to move!

    Energy time indeed.

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  5. Holy Cow. Listening to this now and it's fantastic. I love the connection between poetry and "stuff like this," but it has to be done well. This is done very well. Thanks!

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