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Golda Solomon: Word Riffs (2006)

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Golda Solomon: Word Riffs How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Golda Solomon mines language the way an instrumentalist mines a chart. The poet uses speech-song to explore words as percussive and melodic entities; jazz as a cultural force is the topic of her discourse. Word Riffs is an extension of her work as the founder of the Po'Jazz Series, presented monthly at Cornelia Street Café. Po'Jazz—the simultaneous presentation of spoken verse and free improvisation—is the cultural scion of the beat poetry of the '60s.

Solomon remembers the beat poetry days: she grew up in Brooklyn in the '50s and was a habitué of Village jazz clubs in the '60s. In her poetry she gives witness to that heady time in jazz history, invoking the social commentary of the era in her pieces. Most of the cuts are short—between two and four minutes each—with the exception of "For Harlem in the 1960s, which clocks in at almost ten minutes. The listen is well spent: Solomon's evocative, personal storytelling on this track conjures raw images of New York almost fifty years ago, when jazz and outrage were of a piece.

Behind her words her band improvises in complete understanding of Solomon's poetic intent, often accentuating her lyric message with a rhythmic or melodic motif. The quartet—bassist Christopher Dean Sullivan, pianist Eri Yamamoto, alto saxophonist Saco Yasuma and drummer Michael TA Thompson—provides Solomon with a constant backdrop of free bop expression without ever intruding. Throughout the recording Solomon's recitations are clear, enunciated and well-timed.

Solomon has something to say beyond her reminisces of the jazz greats that passed through New York four decades ago, intriguing as those reminisces are. She includes two political satires on the disc: "Saxman's Social Security Blues, about the threat to social security entitlements, and "Bush Whacked Blues, about the Bush Administration's response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Throughout the recording, Solomon's words issue a gentle challenge, but not without reason, she asserts. In the opening line of the title cut, a provocative portrait of the young, wide-eyed and eared devotée of Thelonious Monk, she intones, "My blues had no name till jazz fell into my ears. Like many.


Track Listing: Word Riffs; For Harlem In The 1960s; Mr. G Meets The Duke, Ellington, That Is; Sister Bop; Spilt Milk; Saxman's Social Security Blues; 1960s Jazz Hag; Exterior Palettes; Bop For Daddy; Older Woman Blues; Bush Whacked Blues; Rapsonnet.

Personnel: Golda Solomon: words; Christopher Dean Sullivan: bass; Michael T.A. Thompson: drums; Eri Yamamoto: piano; Saco Yasuma: alto sax.

Record Label: Self Produced

Style: Vocal


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