I was immediately hooked by this album's first track: a loose, free-wheelin' tune called "Geronimo's Free" that laces jazz solos over a ska backbeat, recalling the best of the Skatellites. But don't expect just one sound or style from Chicago drummer Ted Sirota and his band, the Rebel Souls. Propaganda offers a little bit of everything: bebop, avant jazz, jazz-rock, even a touch of the blues - not surprising since Sirota was once a member of blues great Eddie Kirkland's band.
But the overriding inspiration for this daring, piano-less quintet appears to be the great bands of Ornette Coleman. The title tune, for example, is a free-jazz journey propelled by Sirota's ferocious drumming. "La Danse de Janvier," another Sirota original, layers funky dance and rock grooves over African percussion. Other numbers, like cornetist Rob Mazurek's "Ten" and guitarist Jeff Parker's "Hemiola", stick closer to home, building on catchy bebop riffs, but letting the soloists venture off into uncharted territories.
What sets this group apart from the crowd, in addition to fine chops, is its open ears and adventurous spirit. The Rebel Souls cover a lot of ground stylistically, but it never feels forced or unnatural. Here's a smart, forward-thinking band that knows how to swing. Definitely worth a listen.