It may be an overused metaphor, but saxophonist Zoh Amba does indeed stand on the shoulders of giants. Proof of that phrase is Bhakti, a tour de force of passionate free jazz. The twentysomething artist draws on traditions born of the 1960s from artists such as Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, and Peter Brötzmann. Her music, like that of her mentor David Murray's early career explorations, sustains the customs of the 1960's firebrands for a new generation.
Amba's recorded releases, which have come thick and fast, attest to her talents. Moreover, her collaborators validate her talents. She has recorded with Francisco Mela on Causa Y Efecto (577 Records, 2022), Mela and William Parker on O Life, O Light (577 Records, 2022), and here with pianist Micah Thomas, drummer Tyshawn Sorey, and guitarist Matt Hollenberg.
The nearly 30 minute "AltarFlower" opens with a conflagration of sound; Amba's tenor blasts forth with an ominous tone, joined by Thomas' roiling piano and the turbulence of Sorey's drums. After Amba ignites the flame here, the intensity never settles, even in the quiet moments. Thomas' piano is free to fly, delivering cascades of energetic notes, which feed back to the saxophone's plaintive wail. Much like John Coltrane's late career escape velocity sound, Amba taps into the same transcendent energy. Ayler's sweet temper and vibrato is mined with the opening of "The Drop And The Sea." The saxophonist, plus Thomas and Sorey then magnify the fervor by nurturing their flame into another conflagration of sound. "Awaiting Thee" adds avantmetal guitarist Matt Hollenberg to the mix. His electricity takes the trio to another level of intensity, pushing all towards a musical event horizon. In other words, Zoh Amba's sound threatens to reach said escape velocity, i.e. transcendence.
Alter—Flower; The Drop And The Sea; Awaiting Thee.
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