Ted Sirota's Rebel Souls know danger when they create it. Arriving on Chicago's Delmark label, Breeding Resistance taps into an honorable jazz tradition of music as political activism. Mingus, Shepp, Kirk, Haden, and more recently Dapp Theory, David Budbill, and Vijay Iyer have successfully wed jazz and politics. Drummer Sirota drives his ensemble through a catalogue of styles, faithfully visiting dub, swinging post bop, Soweto, and more.
Sirota's longtime partner in Rebel Souls, Chicago guitar whiz Jeff Parker, has been winding up on everything coming out Delmark lately, and his contributions mark each project for the better. Equally hardworking trombonist Jeb Bishop, catching his breath from sessions with Ken Vandermark and Peter Brotzmann, among others, negotiates the cultural gear shifts with chameleonic grace. Charlie Haden prot'g' Clark Sommers holds down the bass chair, and Sirota veteran Geof Bradfield sings sax.
Opening with Sirota's 'Saro-Wiwa,' the quintet plays an edgy Fela-esque funk. Bradfield blows slightly rough-hued expressive phrases ending in a smoldering duet with Sirota. Bishop follows with swaggering beat-driven lines. Parker takes inspired turns with sweet clear tone. Sampling power-packed quotes from Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, 'Chairman Fred' has the band playing a theme reminiscent of Haden's Liberation Orchestra. The band goes free, then Parker picks up an ominous line on the Korg MS20, laying a foundation with Sirota for Bradfleld's shrieks, multiphonics, and agility.
Spotlight on breezy close Blue Note horn arrangements on Bishop's 'Knife.' Parker's crisp chording creates tension in the middle of this classic romp. Bishop comes out slide slicing with the incisive rhythm section dicing. Bradfield pours soulful tenor all over the proceedings, Sommers explores on his own, then the ensemble returns for the swinging outro. Parker's 'For Martyrs' takes a sad theme and has Bradfield run with it. Bradfield and Sirota, that is, as Sirota plays unintrusive busy drums through the solemn arrangement.
Sirota's 'This is a Take Over' takes the band to Jamaica for a powerful dub version with Bishop sounding authentic, and Bradfield low register mellow. Mellower still, Bradfield's 'Elegy' lets Sirota flutter the brushes under the serious trombone and tenor. Parker takes a pretty turn, before the ensemble returns to walk him out. The title track races through the twisty start/stop theme, then Sommers and Sirota keep the pressure on while Bishop, Parker and Bradfield freely associate.
Parker's 'Huntsville Texas' finds the guitarist with a more rugged tone moving through the stately theme. Bradfield switches to soprano for the lighter 'D.C.' The straight-ahead groove works for everyone and Parker returns to his cooler sound. 'Axe' further explores the group's solid jazz chops, and Sommers' 'Pablo' features a tasty easy swinging arrangement that Lee Morgan could have used.
These eleven performances argue more convincingly for freedom than reams of manifestos and volumes of political theory.
Personnel: Jeb Bishop, trombone; Geof Bradfield, tenor and soprano sax; Jeff Parker, guitar, KORG MS20; Clark Sommers, bass; Ted Sirota, drums and percussion.