Ted Sirota's Rebel Souls: Seize The Time (2009)
In the grand tradition of such revolutionary bandleaders as Charles Mingus and Max Roach, Chicago-based drummer Ted Sirota leads his flagship band, The Rebel Souls, through their fifth long player, Seize The Time, with the same vivacious energy he fostered over their four previous releases, hearkening back to Rebel Roots (NAIM, 1996).
Despite a rotating roster of sidemen (former members include Jeb Bishop, Rob Mazurek, and Jeff Parker), Sirota has maintained the Rebel Souls for well over a decade. The current line-up includes saxophonists Geof Bradfield and Greg Ward, guitarist Dave Miller, and bassist Jake Vinselyoung musicians on the rise in the thriving Chicago scene, each with numerous sideman credits to his name.
Paying tribute to protest movements throughout history, Sirota channels the rebellious fortitude of kindred spirits on a series of pointed covers by folk pioneer Stephen Foster, politically active Brazilian tunesmith Caetano Veloso, exiled South African singer Miriam Makeba, and British punk band The Clash. Sirota also acknowledges politically motivated jazz masters with a lovingly ebullient take on Mingus' "Free Cell Block F, 'Tis Nazi U.S.A." and a vivacious, melodic solo tribute to Roach, "Viva Max! (Improvised Drum Solo)."
Boasting an eclectic mix of inspiring cover tunes and pithy originals, Seize The Time relies on pan-global folk forms for its cohesive sound. Splitting songwriting duties with his band mates, Sirota and company favor subtle aspects of African, Caribbean, and Latin traditions over the tenets of Western music, imbuing their pieces with the same feisty spirit found in the indigenous protest songs covered throughout the record.
Encapsulating a wide variety of popular musical styles, the album is aided in large part by Miller's chameleonic proficiency. From kaleidoscopic highlife arpeggios and reverb laced skank chords to crunchy distorted leads, he provides the band an authentic timbral link to myriad genres.
Kicking off the record in high style is a radical version of The Clash's "The Clampdown"a regal reinterpretation of the English punks' coruscating anthem as a lyrical gospel chorale. The dulcet intertwining reeds of Bradfield and Ward lend a similarly austere air to Stephen Foster's somber "Hard Times," while "Killa Dilla" ebbs with echo-laden dub psychedelia, traversing the globe figuratively and conceptually. Continuing the fourth world journey, Caetano Veloso's "13 De Maio" is buoyed by enthusiastic hand claps and Miller's percolating fretwork, as Miriam Makeba's "Polo Mze" is split in two, shifting from ethereal introspection to gritty bare-bones funk.
Infused with a stirring rebel spirit, the deft originals, and convincingly realized covers of Seize The Time find Sirota's aptly named band forging ahead into their second decade.
Track Listing: Clampdown; 13 De Maio; Free Cell Block F, 'Tis Nazi U.S.A.; Hard Times (Come Again No More); Killa Dilla; Tollway; Viva Max! (Improvised Drum Solo); J.Y.D.; Polo Mze Pt. 1; Polo Mze Pt. 2; Little D; The Keys To Freedom.
Personnel: Ted Sirota: drums; Geof Bradfield: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Greg Ward: alto saxophone; Dave Miller: guitar; Jake Vinsel: acoustic bass, electric bass.