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Chelsea McBride's Socialist Night School: Aftermath

Jack Bowers By

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Aftermath is the second album by composer / arranger / tenor saxophonist Chelsea McBride's Toronto-based Socialist Night School. It's a bright-eyed ensemble, comprised for the most part of young musicians who are fully on board with McBride's contemporary approach to big-band jazz (think Muhal Richard Abrams, Julius Hemphill, Darcy James Argue or Charles Mingus with a touch more accord and a tad less dissonance).

McBride's music is largely thematic and, as the group's title implies, broadly insurgent. As such, it should appeal to a generation of listeners more liberated by ideals and open to new beliefs than bound by habitude and tradition. The opening "Revolution Blues," which was inspired, she writes, by the 2016 U.S. presidential election, sets the tone for what is to come, even though none of the nine ensuing selections is as specific or politically inspired as "Blues." There are "love songs" of sorts ("Say You Love Me," "My Love Is on the Line"), an "ode to capitalism" ("House on Fire") and lyrics influenced by the #metoo movement ("Porcelain"), the grieving process ("The Void Becomes You") and bipolar disorders (the two-part suite "Fly By Night" and "Niagara"). Alex Samaras ' expressive voice is heard on nine of the album's ten tracks, and as no one else is credited as lyricist, the presumption is that McBride handled that task as well. The lone instrumental, "The Righteous and the Wicked," is based on a biblical passage (Proverbs 11:8).

As to those lyrics, they are for the most part abstruse and enigmatic, as lyrics are wont to be these days (in other words, this ain't Cole Porter or Irving Berlin). Samaras does the best he can to make them accessible, and at least they are set to pleasing melodies. For its part, the SNS Orchestra provides a sumptuous backdrop and abets McBride's purpose with ardor and finesse. Soloists are capable, especially baritone Conrad Gluch ("House on Fire"), tenor Patrick Smith and pianist Chris Bruder ("The Void Becomes You") and trombonist William Carn ("Love Is on the Line"). McBride solos respectably on "Revolution Blues" and "The Righteous and the Wicked." For better or worse, this is the pathway along which today's big bands are traveling; one's response to and acceptance of that course will no doubt be shaped by openness and understanding, not to mention predisposition and passion.

Track Listing: Revolution Blues; Say You Love Me; The Righteous and the Wicked; Ballad of the Arboghast; House On Fire; The Void Becomes You; Fly By Night; Niagara; Porcelain; Love Is On The Line.

Personnel: Chelsea McBride: tenor sax, conductor, composer; Colleen Allen: soprano and alto saxophones, piccolo, flute, alto flute; Naomi Higgins: soprano and alto saxophones, flute, alto flute; Alison Young: tenor saxophone, flute, clarinet; Patrick Smith: tenor and soprano saxophones, flute, clarinet; Conrad Gluch: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet, alto flute; James Rhodes: trumpet, flugelhorn; Justin See: trumpet, flugelhorn; Tom Upjohn: trumpet, flugelhorn; Kaelin Murphy: trumpet, flugelhorn; William Carn: trombone; Aidan Sibley: trombone; Jill Richards: trombone; Nicholas Sieber: bass trombone, tuba; Alex Samaras: voice; Chris Bruder: piano; David Riddel: guitar; Steven Falk: upright and electric basses; Geoff Bruce: drums.

Title: Aftermath | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Self Produced

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