The Black Art Jazz Collective was founded in 2013 by saxophonist Wayne Escoffery
, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt
and drummer Johnathan Blake
, with bassist Dwayne Burno
added shortly thereafter, and further expanded by trombonist James Burton
(III) and pianist Xavier Davis
. The group's first performance was Dizzy's Club Coca Cola
in April, 2013. Sadly, Burno died in December of that year, and was eventually replaced by Vicente Archer
. The avowed purpose of the group is to celebrate Black culture, particularly jazz, but also politics, while remembering earlier masters of the art form.
The entrance of The Side Door Jazz Club
is literally the side door of the Old Lyme Inn in Old Lyme, Connecticut. The inn was brought back to life by Ken Kitchings and his wife Chris, and the space for the club was opened in 2013. The opportunity presented itself in November of 2014 for BAJC to play a two-night gig, as well as recording the group at the club.
The result is this eponymous album, with seven "studio" tracks and one live track, which clearly shows how tight the group is, and how much they enjoy playing together. The overall sound is clearly 60s Blue Note post-bop, but there is something extra in the air between the notes that marks it as something more than what is normally presented as mainstream jazz. Whatever one thinks of the concept of "jazz repertory" or any definition of "what jazz is" and what its "necessary" components are, there is no question about the intensity and the fire of each player individually as well as the group as a whole.
All of the tracks are originals by members of the group (including "Devil Eyes" by Burno), most with explicit mentions of their inspiration, which includes W.E.B Dubois, Sojourner Truth, Barack Obama and Joe Henderson
. This last name is tied to the live track "The Shadower" by Blake. While the studio tracks are very good in a nostalgic way, the twelve-minute live track overshadows the others. Here is to be found what makes jazz so excitingthat regardless of whether the overall sound is dated, and hence predictable in a sense, what happens from moment to moment is highly dramatic, making one sit up on the edge of the seat and take notice. The audience is clearly with them and responds joyously to the intensity of the music and how the group is connecting to them through it.
Regardless of any stylistic qualms, the music of The Black Art Jazz Collective
succeeds where it countsin creating an emotion connection between performer and audience.