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Harriet Tubman: Ascension

Mark Corroto By

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It has been forty-six years since John Coltrane took his expanded ensemble into a studio to record Ascension (Impulse!, 1965), and many believe the jazz world has yet to come to grips with its significance and meaning. It has only been eleven years since the power trio Harriet Tubman, expanded into the Harriet Tubman Double Trio, rendered its interpretation of Ascension.

Formed in 1998, the Harriet Tubman trio picks up where the short-lived supergroup Power Tools (Bill Frisell, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Melvin Gibbs) left off. Bassist Gibbs, who has also kept time for hardcore rocker Henry Rollins, Defunkt, and Caetano Veloso, joined forces with drummer J.T. Lewis (Living Color, Henry Threadgill), and guitarist Brandon Ross (Cassandra Wilson, Wadada Leo Smith), to create a sort of free jazz jam band, playing a blend of jazz, blues, funk, and soul, with a preference for electric-era Miles Davis and P-Funk overtones. Harriet Tubman's previous trio discs are the live date, Prototype (Avant, 2000), and the studio session, I Am A Man (Knitting Factory, 1998).

Here, the band expands to a double trio with the addition of trumpeter Ron Miles, and turntablists DJ Logic (Medeski, Martin & Wood, Yohimbe Brothers) and DJ Singe. Recorded live in 2000, Harriet Tubman's Ascension, updating the original with turntables, sampling, and electric guitar, shares only the collective improvisation aspect with Coltrane's original. The ten tracks serve a common purpose: to churn and burn a funk-heavy groove. The three "Ascension" tracks are painted by turntable slurring effects and the trio's heavy onslaught. With Miles in attendance, the band touches more on Miles Davis than Coltrane, especially the late trumpet icon's love for Jimi Hendrix. Elswhere, the heavy thud of Gibb's bass doles out the funk, allowing for the wilding effects of turntable and electronics.

If John Coltrane's Ascension demanded snapping to attention, Harriet Tubman's version looks to lay back and groove.

Track Listing: Ascension; Ritual Rubbin'; Down Shift / Ascension; Night Master / Ascension; Ascension; Stellar Attraction; Probe; Sideral Flux; Plasmaroid; Widely Known.

Personnel: Brandon Ross: guitar; Melvin Gibbs: bass; JT Lewis: drums; Ron Miles: trumpet; DJ Logic: turntables; DJ Singe: turntables.

Title: Ascension | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records


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