From Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" to Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite, jazz has played its part in the all too frequent struggles against oppression and despotism. Drummer Ted Sirota, with his band Rebel Souls, has written another page in this long and rich tradition of protest music with Breeding Resistance , designed to raise awareness of our global situation.
"Saro-Wiwa" (an elegy to a Nigerian civil rights activist), is a brass-driven tune with a lilting African rhythm that leads off the proceedings. "Chairman Fred" is an homage to slain Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton. With suggestions of Mingus' "Freedom" mingled with excerpts from Hampton's speeches, the band spirals around guitarist Jeff Parker's brooding nine-note figure which serves as Hampton's leitmotif. Tenor man Geof Bradfield has a passionate, blistering solo, as does drummer Sirota. "For Martyrs" is a dolorous piece with counterpoint drumming providing a backdrop for the reverent horns. The title cut features splendid horn interplay between trombonist Jeb Bishop and Bradfield, some quicksilver bass work by Clark Sommers and another fiery solo by Sirota. "Huntsville, TX" is an indictment of the death penalty and President Bush, who oversaw numerous executions as Governor of Texas; "Pablo" is a straight ahead examination of hypocrisy in the face of war that features solid solos by Parker and Bishop.
Not all of the tunes are firebrands. "Knife" has a "Secret Agent Man" feeling to it, with Parker's rich electric guitar setting the pace. The lovely "Elegy", features Bradfield's rich tenor and a tender guitar solo by Parker, while "D.C." is a lighthearted tribute to Don Cherry with Bradfield playing a bouncy soprano sax. "This Is A Takeover," a reggae-flavored pun, perhaps serves as the link between the revolutionary and non-revolutionary sides of the disc.
The penultimate song on the disc is entitled "Axé," which according to the liner notes means "spiritual power" in Yoruba, and is the tune which exemplifies Breeding Resistance. Even if it doesn't reach the ears of the masses, this disc will have done its task if it opens just one set of eyes and ears.
Track Listing: 1 Saro-Wiwa Sirota 9:33
2 Chairman Fred (I Wish Fred Hampton Was Here) Sirota 7:23
3 Knife Bishop 7:23
4 For Martyrs Parker 3:03
5 This Is a Takeover Sirota 6:09
6 Elegy Bradfield 4:01
7 Breeding Resistance (aka Paper Tiger Blues) Sirota 5:02
8 Huntsville, TX Sirota 3:10
9 D.C. Bradfield 6:13
Personnel: Ted Sirota - Drums, Percussion; Jeb Bishop - Trombone; Geof Bradfield - Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone; Jeff Parker - Guitar, Korg MS20; Clark Sommers - Bass
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.