The Delta Blues, spawned from the callous conditions on Mississippi plantations and farmlands, is an artistic manifestation that creativity can overcome, survive, and thrive, amidst overwhelming situations. These sparse, rural blues, which came out of the fields so long ago, continue to influence contemporary musicians seeking a raw form of expression. Count saxophonist Noah Preminger
among those who have gone back to these roots, his Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground
, is a re-invigoration process based on primordial sources. Recorded live at the Sidedoor Jazz Club, in Old Lyme, Connecticut, this is as close to early jazz as one could hear, played with a sincere reverence to the blues.
The title track, written by Blind Willie Johnson
, is arguably the most haunting gospel/blues song ever recorded, an eerie slide guitar with a sorrowful moaning vocal. Preminger's sax initiates the somber moan, and Jason Palmer
's trumpet facsimiles the slide, as they set the tone for the deep blues concept of the record. "Hard Times Killing Floor Blues," adheres to the Skip James
original, then takes a sharp turn into a free jazz orbit. While Preminger and Palmer go after and against each other in an improvisational blaze, bassist Kim Cass maintains a sonic order.
The gospel truth is evident in "Trouble In Mind," the trumpet following a tradition that goes back to country churches on Sunday mornings, after a hard Saturday night. The sanctified direction continues with "I Am the Heavenly Way," written by Bukka White
; being the longest track, there is plenty of room for expansion and invention. Ian Froman demonstrates exceptional drumming skills in anchoring the spatial passages, and his accents on "Future Blues," keep the down home blues on track.
The highly influential Charley Patton
is represented with an abstract version of "Spoonful Blues," performed with a sax and trumpet tandem that stretches into profound soloing. The gut bucket blues of Blind Lemon Jefferson
and "Black Snake Moan," beckon back to the pioneering sound of New Orleans, with the soul of the field hollers (arhoolies) echoing in the distance. Robert Johnson
is considered the King of the Delta Blues, and continues to cast a looming shadow. His "Love in Vain," is given the proper respect such an American classic deserves, as the band embellishes, but does not adumbrate the original.
The intertwined connection between sacred and secular are further expanded on "I Shall Not Be Moved," the singular Mississippi John Hurt
song, tempered way down, and converted into a mourning invocation. It serves as an appropriate finale, Preminger and Palmer taking it to that special place where blues and jazz collide in a soft explosion. Preminger was principally attracted to this music, as many are, for its sincerity and timelessness. The challenge, and accomplished purpose, was to take these songs into another realm, while being grounded firmly in the Delta Blues, where it all came from, and keeps going back to.