To call this Rebel Souls disc ambitious is not an overstatement, and to label drummer Ted Sirota and company bold, does not unnecessarily over-dramatize their mission. Seize The Time is the band's fifth disc, of which three prior releases were also on UK's NAIMRebel Roots (1996), Propaganda (1999) and Vs. The Forces Of Evil (2000)preceding the US-released Breeding Resistance (Delmark, 2004).
Not one to hold his tongue, Sirota, like all great agitators, lets his voice be heard through his art. Here he pays tribute to musicians that have inspired him, from Charles Mingus, to Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Joe Strummer, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Caetano Veloso, and Miriam Makeba. Utilizing both cover music and inspired new compositions, the point is made. Protest music is soul music, reggae, and certainly jazz.
The lineup of the Rebel Souls has changed over the years. Past members have included Jeff Parker, Rob Mazurek, Noel Kupersmith, and Jeb Bishop. The current roster contains musicians to keep an eye on, as the music is both top rate and engaging.
The disc opens with The Clash's "Clampdown." But not the "let fury have the hour, anger can be power" oppressive Strummer sound. Guitarist Dave Miller's arrangements takes more of a lyrical approach, layering the music into a grand gesture, but retaining all the passion of the original rock anthem.
Certainly the jazz perspective here is an outsider's slant and there is no need to shout the protest from the rooftops. Jazz has always been the hippest way to make a point. The band swings a straight jazz cover on Mingus' "Free Cell Block F, 'Tis Nazi U.S.A.," and invokes a reggae/dub echo for Sirota's "Killa Dilla." The drummer even takes a few minutes to lay down a Max Roach tribute drum solo on "Viva Max!," with Roach's familiar, euphonious and muscular sound.
The disc traverses multiple styles, continents and languages. Brazilian guitarist Caetano Veloso's "13 De Maio" opens with percussion and hand-claps, later there is the traditional American sound of Stephen Foster's "Hard Times" and the Ornette Coleman-inspired ""J.Y.D.," and then it's off to South Africa for Miriam Makeba's "Polo Mze."
The highlight of the disc might, however, be Miller's simple prayer, "Tollway." Here, Geof Bradfield's bass clarinet oozes in and around the guitarist and Jake Vinsel's walking bass, making for a slow burning poem.
We can be certain it is a protest poem.
Personnel: Geof Bradfield: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Greg Ward: alto saxophone; Dave Miller: guitar; Jake Vinsel: acoustic bass, electric bass; Ted Sirota: drums.