Anyone out there wondering where (and maybe when) all the popular culture protests over King George’s war will begin? Where are the Country Joe and the Fish bands? Has Someone kidnapped Arlo Guthrie? And will Crosby, Stills, and Nash have to seek the advice of their broker before singing “Ohio” again?
Sorry, but popular music is too closely tied to the corporate interests that run this country to speak out. Rappers will remain fixed on their collective navels (i.e. gold, cars and guns). Rockers and country singers, still reeling from the backlash at the Dixie Chicks, will have to check with marketing, but until then they better “support our troops.”
That leaves the job to the jazz community. No problem. Like the 1960’s music of Max Roach, Archie Shepp, Sonny Rollins, and Charles Mingus, jazz musicians are certainly up for the mission. Aside from jazz’s flirtation with the mainstream, it has always been the dissenting voice.
Enter Ted Sirota’s Rebel Souls, a throwback to the rebelliousness of Mingus and the consciousness of Bob Marley. As a protest record, Breeding Resistance is one of a few noteworthy responses, alongside Chicago Underground Trio’s Slon (Thrill Jockey) and Vijay Iyer’s In What Language? (Pi), to our post 9-11 political world.
Drummer Ted Sirota has been at the helm of Rebel Souls since 1996, playing alongside partner Jeff Parker. Their three NAIM records are certainly worth tracking down. Sirota’s dedication to protest music, folk-jazz as it were, places jazz back in the center of social change.
This incarnation of his band has Sirota and Jeff Parker (Tortoise, Chicago Underground, Isotope) playing with bassist Clark Sommers (a student of Charlie Haden), Jeb Bishop (Vandermark 5, Terminal 4, Peter Brotzmann), and saxophonist Geof Bradfield, who released (along with Sirota) The Rule Of Three (Liberated Zone), perhaps the best record from 2003 that you never heard.
The disc opens with “Saro-Wiwa” a jazz visit to Nigeria through the Kahil El Zabar school percussion attack. Where El Zabar keeps things minimal, Sirota expands the groove to his two-horn attack and shuffles an orchestrated groove. The punch this band delivers is the solid work of trombonist Jeb Bishop. Like Jimmy Knepper’s work with Mingus, Bishop’s voice is the wail, the dissent, the demur here. He bolsters, alongside Bradfield, the human voice which the trombone and saxophone were designed to mimic.
They cover the anger of the Black Panthers, with sound samples on “Chairman Fred.” The track ends with Parker’s throbbing Korg electronics bridging the sixties with today’s DJ sound. They even dip into dub and ska on “This Is A Takeover,” reverberating like Jamaican street music. But like Mingus, they can also deliver incredibly fragile and beautiful music, like “Pablo” after Picasso’s Guernica , and Geof Bradfield’s “Elegy.” Sirota presents the full range of emotions, allowing for resolution of all the pressure he builds in his performance.
Take note: You're not going to hear music more powerful than Breeding Resistance this year. Unless, of course, We the People demand it!
Personnel: Ted Sirota - Drums, Percussion; Jeb Bishop - Trombone; Geof Bradfield - Tenor Saxophone,
Soprano Saxophone; Jeff Parker - Guitar, Korg MS20; Clark Sommers - Bass.