Noah Baerman: Soul Force (2005)
A gregarious energy triumphs through pianist Noah Baerman's compositions. Jubilant and free at their core, they prosper with a stamina similar to that which propelled Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. on his mission toward human equality and understanding. Soul Force was inspired by King, and with three tracks named for significant events in the Civil Rights movement, it exists as a musical history that reminds listeners of the relevance of King's message almost four decades after his death.
Rife with the fervor of the place and time it's named for, "Montgomery, 1956 highlights the group's ability to play together. A dazzling horn section made up of Steve Wilson, Claire Daly, Wayne Escoffery, Jimmy Greene and Robin Eubanks is joined by Baerman on piano, plus six other players. Varying from a standard big band sound to grinding rock to furious Latin jazz, the track addresses the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott sparked by the recently departed Rosa Parks, which helped launch the national Civil Rights movement.
Baerman memorializes the famous march where King delivered his "I Have A Dream speech with "Washington, 1963. Long, low-range horn notes open the track, continuing for a relaxed eleven minutes without ever reaching the passion one would expect of a tune with such a title. Henry Lugo bows his bass for a heavy-hearted intro to "Memphis, 1968 a city and year immortalized by King's assassination. The tempo speeds up as piano, bass and drums embark on a brisk cavalcade symbolizing King's unyielding spirit.
Baerman gallops around Thelonious Monk's "Justice like a well-trained steed. His mastery of the piano and playful, light-hearted approach to the instrument are showcased on the album's two traditionals: "This Little Light of Mine and "(Ain't Gonna Let Nobody) Turn Me Around. The latter features bluesy electric guitar solos by Rebecca Koval that wind around the rhythm section with the heat of a steamy Southern night.
Track Listing: This Little Light of Mine; Montgomery, 1956; Prelude (Soul Force); Justice; Washington, 1963; Soul Force; (Ain't Gonna Let Nobody) Turn Me Around; Satyagrahi; This Little Light of Mine (Reprise); Memphis, 1968; Happy Birthday.
Personnel: Noah Baerman: piano (1,2,4-8,11); Steve Wilson: alto saxophone (2,6,11); Wayne Escoffery: tenor saxophone (6,11), soprano saxophone (2,5,8,9); Jimmy Greene: tenor saxophone (2,5,9,11), flute (6,8); Claire Daly: baritone saxophone (2,5,6,8,9,11); Robin Eubanks: trombone (2,6,11); Warren Smith: marimba (2,11); Amanda Monaco: guitar (2,3,5,6,8,11); Rebecca Koval: guitar (7); Henry Lugo: bass (1,2,4-8,11); Vinnie Sperrazza: drums (1,2,4-8,11), tambourine (9); Tigger Benford: junk percussion (2), tablas (8), shakers (11); Marcos Torres, III: congas, maracas, miscellaneous percussion (2,8,11); Anna Baerman, Dave Mainella, Justin Butler: "marching feet" (2).