The vibrancy and emotion of the Brooklyn Sax Quartet underscores its social conscience. This inventive group puts together a program that embraces multiculturalism and acknowledges the struggle against injustice without proselytizing. At a recent March show at St. John's Lutheran Church in Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Sax Quartet performed several numbers from Far Side of Here, whose splendid solo/group interplay recalls the dynamics of a Greek chorus.
On the opener, "Tie Me Sufre (TEEay may SOOfray), altoist Rudresh Mahanthappa blows a blistering solo over Fred Ho's patiently pumping baritone. Ho then takes center stage on "Fishing Song of the East China, a song he wrote based on a Chinese folk song. The disc's centerpiece is "The Black Nation Suite, conceived by Ho and comprised of four tunes about the black struggle for freedom in Africa and America. Each horn voices an element of the struggle: the late, great Sam Furnace's passionate alto on "O, Freedom ; John O'Gallagher's dolorous but unbowed soprano on "We Shall Overcome ; Ho's querulous baritone leading his fellow sax men through a dance of defiance on "Free New Afrika! Boogaloo ; and the shrieking protestations of tenor man David Bindman on "Song for a United Socialist Pan Africa.
The group also includes a couple of standards in the lineup. Bindman's witty arrangement of "Night in Tunisia includes mischievous false endings and deft tempo shifts; and "Lush Life features a lyrical intro by Ho and big band styling that would make both Trane and Duke proud. The last song, "Jajo (YAH-yo), means "egg in Polish and includes a sly reference to Bob Marley. A tune with a Polish title and reggae highlights. If that doesn't speak volumes for the Brooklyn Sax Quartet, nothing will.
Tie Me Sufre; Fishing Song of the East China Sea ;I Understand Now;
A Night in Tunisia; The Black Nation Suite: O, Freedom; We Shall Overcome; Free New Afrika! Boogaloo; Song for a United Socialist; Pan Africa; Lush Life; Spinning; Jajo
David Bindman (Tenor Saxophone); Fred Ho (Baritone Saxophone); Sam Furnace or Rudresh Mahanthappa (Alto Saxophone); John O'Gallagher (Soprano Saxophone)