Seven Steps to Soul
In a narrow view, soul music is a style of rhythm and blues in which the object of affection is most often a lover who's either in view or long been out of sight. But from a wider perspective, soul music can also tell the story of a nation's memories and dreams, and articulate the spirit of an entire people. Both perspectives are explored in the following recent titles.
Ted Sirota's Rebel Souls
Seize the Time
"Seize the Time is dedicated to the many musicians who stood up boldly in the face of oppression and injustice and refused to surrender or back down despite harsh consequences," says drummer, bandleader and composer Ted Sirota. "With the world sinking deeper and deeper into crisis each day we should forever remind ourselves that in crisis there is opportunityseize the time!"
Seize the Time is a remarkably well-sequenced, cohesive package that fits together from its opening rework of The Clash's "Clampdown" to its finale "The Keys to Freedom," as Sirota and his Rebel souls venture through space and time to gather anthems for the beat down and pushed around. "Clampdown" is more than a new versionit's a new vision that does not mute its rebellious mood and fiercely independent spirit. The anger in Charles Mingus's content and breadth of his musical vision make "Free Cell Block F, 'Tiz Nazi U.S.A." perfect for Sirota's ensemble and thematic approach; as it wobbles through its ending, it opens the moan of "Hard Times (Come Again No More)," composed by Stephen Foster and published in 1855.
Sirota serves "Polo Mze," written by South African activist Miriam Makeba, in two parts: He hammers cowbell and other percussion sounds into a tribal background of part one while horn players wail on top, a potent mixture of African and jazz streams that would make even Pharoah Sanders smile; part two updates this jungle funk from rural Africa to urban America and rages in much more strident tones. "The Keys to Freedom" is the obvious musical and thematic culmination, a sharp and incisive romp through post-bop modern jazz.
As for the leader, Sirota consistently demonstrates his affection for his professed instrumental inspiration, Max Roach. Sirota's drums rush above and below the rhythms and tempos of "Clampdown" to create more waves and pulses than articulated beats, shaping an elastic space between his drums and Dave Miller's guitar that suggests Paul Motian's supple relationship with Bill Evans' piano. In his spaced-out reggae original "Killa Dilla," Sirota taps out almost imperceptible beats within the beats that you feel more than you hear. His solo improvisational tribute "Viva Max!" overspills with snare rolls and bass bombs and explodes with the bright sound, crisp articulation, and sharp funk so characteristic of Roach's legendary attack. "Max was one of the main reasons I wanted to become a jazz musician, and my biggest influence as a young drummer," Sirota verbally explains, but on Seize the Time, his music does the talking.
Seize the Time musicians: Geof Bradfield: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet; Greg Ward: alto saxophone; Dave Miller: guitar; Jake Vinsel: acoustic bass, electric bass; Ted Sirota: drums.
Seize the Time song titles: Clampdown; 13 de Maio; Free Cell Block F, 'Tiz 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.
Out to Lunch
Very few journalists could resist the lure of a band whose music has evoked the hallowed names of Eric Dolphy and James Brown in the same descriptive sentence, which The Village Voice did to praise the "improvisational acumen" and "rhythmic genius" of reed player David Levy.
When he's "Out to Lunch," Levy leads this extraordinary exploratory improvisational funk-rock band from their base in NYC, the biggest and funkiest rock of all. Because Levy's Lunch-men combine a rhythm section, horn section, and electronics, there's almost no instrumental jazz, funk, pop, or rock style from the past half century that they're not equipped to play. This makes it even more rewarding when saxophonists Levy and Petr Cancura and trumpeter Josiah Woodson break so much of Melvin's Rockpile into refracted jazz styles.